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Burke: When 'the big one' hits should ants help grasshoppers? |

By Tom Burke

The short version of the Greek storyteller Aesop's fable, "The Ant and the Grasshopper," goes: Ant works all summer laying in food; grasshopper spends summer making music. Comes winter the ant eats, the grasshopper starves. The moral: "There's a time to work and a time to play."

The original ending is ambiguous, saying nothing about the grasshopper dying. But that ant wasn't share'n. In later versions the ant may or may not share, as the story was used to illustrate whatever point folks wanted to make.

Today, all over Western Washington, there are ants and grasshoppers aplenty. Only the threat isn't winter but the "really big one." Or the moderately severe one. Or the semi-severe one. Or the itsy-bitsy one. But no matter how high on the Richter scale an earthquake scores the issue isn't just how prepared you are, but how are you going to react when the grasshoppers come begging at your door, after the after-shocks.

The absolute, very most critical thing to know about earthquake preparation in Washington is: Government has failed to prepare. The key finding of the draft report analyzing last year's mega-drill, "<broken link removed>," was, according to newspaper reports, that "Washington state officials called their own response plans 'grossly inadequate.'" (I wonder what the difference between "inadequate" and "grossly inadequate" is. And how it is measured; by the number of "extra" dead?) The report continues, "the state is at risk of a humanitarian disaster (versus some other sort of disaster?) within 10 days of the quake."

Not hard to read between the lines of that report: "Folks, you're on your own."

So let's say you're an ant. The old advice: Lay in a three-day supply of stuff. The new advice: Prepare for at least three weeks (and three months is probably inadequate) survival. So, water, check. Freeze dried food, check. Emergency medical supplies, warm clothes, cash, flashlights and batteries, extra prescriptions, AM/FM radio, matches, garbage bags, and a lot more: check, check … checkcheckcheck.

But suppose your neighbors are more grasshopperish. They have no food, no water, no nutt'in. And they need help.

What you do is a complex decision. A Google search of "disaster ethics" yields 36 million results. But it all boils down to asking, and honestly answering, "Where do I draw the line between providing for my family and sacrificing for others?" Or, "How much am I willing to risk to save another's life?"

The decision matrix could be framed as an exercise in "moral triage," the process of choosing which people to help, based on their need for immediate (and long-term) assistance as compared to their chance of benefiting from such assistance. And here's the kicker, you, and your family, are among the people you're choosing to help, or not. Ouch!

Emergency managers and ethicists draw distinctions between "disasters" ala Katrina and "catastrophes" as a mega-quake in Western Washington. These experts posit that as the size and scale of the tragedy expands, the ethical parameters change. Issues such as social justice, fairness, young versus old, rich versus poor, and the right to choose (and live with the consequences) all come into the mix. It is an exercise in applied ethics, determining how a moral outcome can be achieved in specific situations.

So what's my point here? Simple, adopt the Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared." Learn what needs to be done and do it. If you do you'll only have to contend with moral triage, not a basic, primal live-or-die survival scenario.

And sure, there's a lot to know. And a lot to do. And money to spend.

But the latest odds say there's an 80 percent chance of a magnitude-6.8 temblor (journalistic tradition requires reporters to use "temblor" at least once in any earthquake piece) in the next 50 years and a 10 percent to 15 percent chance of a magnitude-9 earthquake during the same period. And recent news reports of earthquake "swarms" on May 11 off Whidbey Island do nothing to ease my concerns.

I don't like those odds. So I'm becoming something of a downer. No one wants to read about catastrophes, or moral triage, or life straws making contaminated water drinkable, or earthquake insurance (without it you get nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero back on any and all earthquake-caused damage to your property).

And with all the other stuff going on in the world today, disaster prep is easy to put off 'till tomorrow. I guess if you sing loudly and dance gaily you can ignore all them pesky little ants scurrying about. "Let 'em work and let 'em scold," sez you; "but for heaven's sake, don't let 'em spoil the picnic."

Tom Burke's email address is [email protected]
The who part has been decided. However there is always the unforeseen and then circumstances will determine the response.
Depends where you are and your situation when SHTF.
Every case will be a judgment call. As my dad used to say, there's a lot of hurt in the world, you can't be responsible for all of it. It doesn't mean that you can't do what you can but the reality is that the requests for help and hand outs will keep coming until you and your supplies are bled dry. I am talking in the context of large, widespread scenarios where relief is weeks or months away at best. Short term and isolated events, just roll up your sleeves and get in there. Charity is a wonderful thing but if you have a family, think about your priorities.
I'll help anyone one I can. Without prejudice. As long as they don't try to turn on me.
I think some pragmatic wisdom from General Mattis applies here:
  1. Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.
  2. I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you bubblegum with me, I'll kill you all.
IMO, the thinking modality will be shaped very early in the process, based on whether it's a tremblor or the big one, what's left of your preparations, etc.
Hopefully, part of the planning and preparation includes your support network and possibly a muster compound all of you agree upon. Strength in numbers. People will quickly realize, 'this ain't like what Hollywood depicted...'
Coming from a guy that successfully performed CPR on someone and had that person cry on my shoulder a month later, I could have cared less what his political beliefs were. When human life is in your hands, you tend to forget what side they're on.
I'll help anyone one I can. Without prejudice. As long as they don't try to turn on me.
I can remember two time where I reached out to help people and it was evident in a very short time what dirtbags they were. I can also say I've worked with dozens of people who, if they showed up at my driveway, would be shot on sight.
This is a scenario it would be best to anticipate and plan for, developing skills in assessment, critical thinking, and still maintaining an open mind.
[edit to add] Politics have nothing to do with any of my ideas.
I had a conversation with some folks at church about this. Somebody had quipped something like "If the big earthquake comes, I'll just head over to Howard's farm."

My response was "You're all welcome to come, but if you don't work - you don't eat." Of course if it happened in the winter, when no food could be grown, we would be stuck with only our stored food. At that point, we wouldn't be able to help anyone.

If we ever do find ourselves in a complete societal collapse, the only way we'll survive is by working together. With the large numbers of people fleeing the cities, it would be a mess. A very dangerous mess.
And just my thoughts, but if the big one hits or if DPRK can lob one this far, I want a front row seat. Because at that point, this planet is screwed anyway. And survival may be worse than not.
The math doesn't work. We can fight anything but arithmetic.

After a TEOTWAWKI event, Grasshoppers will outnumber Ants by hundreds (!) to one. Probably more.

Wanna try to help just one or two? Ever tried feeding just one or two seagulls?

Soft hearts don't survive hard times, regardless of what TV tries to make us believe. Repeat to yourself: "Not my people. Not my problem."

Besides, you will have your hands quite full attending to your own people. and you MUST have your own people. Lone wolves will get picked off early in the festivities.

Here endeth the lesson.
It depends.

Will the help I provide put myself or those under my charge at risk or under undue hardship?
This question can only be answered at that time and place ... And even then one may not really know.
If the answer is No then I would like to think that I would help.
If yes ... Then I'll have to "ask" you to remove yourself from my AO in the most speedy manner that you can.
One needs to take of yourself and others under your care first , lest you become someone else's burden.

Maybe a better thing to do is help out now before an emergency and see that those around you are prepared.
With the thoughts in mind of:
You can lead a fool to water , but you can't make him drink.
( You can lead a fool to wisdom , but you can't make him think. )
And :
You can't save everybody.
Depends on more factors than I can think of at the moment. But, in general I have a hierarchy of assistance in such an event that goes something like this:

* My immediate family first (those that live in my home)
* My extended family (parents, siblings, in-laws, etc.)
* Friends and/or neighbors
* Other acquaintences
* Random strangers

In general, my first item on the list must be safe, secure and stable before I can reach out further. Most of my family don't live near me, so trying to get help to them will be difficult at best, potentially impossible should the ability to cross the Columbia, for example, be severed.

I don't have a problem with the idea of helping others, but in an emergency, I will most likely turn inward more so than I would under normal circumstances. I tend to have a tender heart toward people in trouble, but I also recognize, under certain conditions, I would have to harden my heart for a time. It's not a pleasant thought, but may be necessary for simple survival. When it does come to helping people outside my immediate or extended family, I would tend to want to offer that assistance away from my home base, so as to avoid any attempt at folks to get into my stores and to violate my security.
I should also add this - any one of us could find ourselves in need of help from others. We could be cut off from getting home, may be somehow separated from our provisions, even a bug out bag, etc. I keep in mind that it may be me that could very well need help from strangers too. That is something I remain keenly aware of and something that may alter my plans when face to face with reality.
I have no hard answers on this question I just have hope I can do the right thing at that moment in time.

If I can help without sacrificing members of my team (family/friends) I will if I feel it puts my team in jeopardy then I will make that "COLD HARD DECISSION" as my life and my teams life is not worth yours.

It's like carrying a gun do you put yourself in the middle of every shooting leaving your family stranded or do you get your family to safety then reassess the situation.

People that know me know I store food and supplies for a rainy day and many even come to me for advice or an opinion (more of a sounding board really) but they also know that if someone tries to shows up at my door unexpected during a truly bad time they may not make down my road and definitely not my driveway before being turned away by force if necessary.

During the Zombie craze just after Katrina the CDC, FEMA and several other agencies came out with statements that folks should keep 3 days to one week or more of food/supplies for emergencies because roads could be flooded or gone and it just takes time to set up efforts to get supplies to some locations.

So in my opinion the word has been put out that you may be on your own for a while so prepare and if you don't that is not my fault. Even something as simple a milk jug of tap water stored in the fridge could keep you going until help shows up.

Because of this (and his crazy uncle, ME) even my nephew in college has set up a basic get home/3 day bags, one each, for him and his girlfriend just in case plus a little extra in their apartment. He has even helped a few of his friends do the same.

It will always depend on the situation as to what I will do or how cold I can be but if it comes to my people vs. yours your are on your own.

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