Information Is Power
American Survival Guide’s “Six Pillars of Survival” are our way of organizing the skills and gear we use to be prepared for the challenges that come our way. If you’re new to the magazine or have forgotten what they are, here you go: Food, Water, Shelter, Security, Communications and Health. They’re not listed in any particular order, but it usually works out that the pillar getting the least amount of attention is Communications. After the events of the last several months, we’ll need to take another look at this oversight.
Typically, we feel as if there’s not a whole lot to this particular aspect of prepping: Have a working weather radio; find a way to keep your smartphone charged while the grid is intact; learn how to use radios; acquire audible and visual signal tools and other such bits of advice have been the norm. When compared with some of the other pillars, the breadth of options available and the appeal of the gear aren’t particularly great.
However, recent history has shown us the value of effective and accurate comms. With virtually every eye and ear tuned to their owners’ preferred medium for the latest update, warning or advice regarding the fight against COVID-19, information has become the driving force behind most of our actions—right, wrong or indifferent.
Unfortunately, the quality of the messages and consistency of their direction have been lacking, regardless of the messenger. I think that in most cases, and except for outright nefarious attempts to separate folks from their money and other resources, this has been foreseeable and should be forgivable.
It’s the norm, rather than the exception, that conditions and data are in constant flux when we experience something unknown. While this hasn’t been the first pandemic suffered by humans, it’s the first of this magnitude and severity to be experienced by all—except for a minuscule number of persons—who are exposed to it today. So, as this event unfolded around the world, suggestions for defense against it, protection from it, treatment for it and effects suffered by its victims changed repeatedly. Changes of some sort occurred almost daily, along with the rising case and body counts, which then fueled frustration, distrust and ambivalence—three effects that are counterproductive at best and destructive at worst.
In the midst of this garbled and inconsistent communication, it can be difficult to make a plan one can feel good about and to find an information resource that inspires confidence. The inevitable result is that no source is deemed trustworthy or accurate, which results in people looking for alternative sources that can be trusted.
As we’ve learned, the process of unlocking the secrets of COVID-19 is non-linear. As with any other medical breakthrough, it takes time, trial and error, and patience to find solutions. But, when we don’t have the time or patience to wait for the process to work itself out, our impatience adds to the instability of the situation.
And therein lies the rub. The most important aspect of communication we need in catastrophes such as this one is the link between our thoughtful mind and our emotions.
Many times over the last several months, we’ve seen emotions get the better of people who probably were, prior to this situation, upstanding members of our society: Until something inside them let loose and they lashed out at the person who momentarily invaded their space or led them to hoard another 60 rolls of toilet paper, they’d kept their actions and emotions under control. There are probably many stimuli that got them to that point, but one, for sure, was the lack of a credible and consistent plan they could trust and follow.
For us to believe that extreme emergencies and SHTF scenarios will follow our playbook is counterproductive and potentially self-destructive. As you look back at the lessons you’ve learned from your experience over the last several months, think about how you might have benefited from rolling with the punches a little better.
There are some things we can’t control. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a human thing. Remember: All you can do is all you can do.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2020 print issue of American Survival Guide