Thursday, May 14, 2020


One of the most basic things about being a prepper is learning how to provide for yourself and your tribe when normal systems break down or are unavailable. Systems are funny things, and there are college-level courses on “proper” systems design and most of the concepts transfer between types of systems quite easily. I want to focus on one of the things that modern designers hate, fear, and avoid: redundancy. You've probably heard the aphorism “Two is one and one is none”; David is a big fan of repeating it. Having a back-up for anything you use is redundancy boiled down to its bare minimum.

Preppers have to work with what they have in a crisis situation, so redundancy is a good thing for us. If your knife breaks, you lose a job, or get stuck somewhere, you should have something handy that can provide the same functionality like a spare knife, money in the bank (or a side job), and people you can trust to feed your cat. These are all forms of redundancy that we can, and should, live with. I like redundancy, and I've made it a part of my life as having spares and back-ups has saved me a lot of hassle over the years. I try to keep at least two of everything... except for my wife, of course. 

However, I'm a bother to management when I ask for redundancy in critical machinery, as corporate HQ views having unused capacity is “wasteful” and we should all “do more with less”. That is what they were taught in Business Management 101, and they rarely learn to think otherwise.

The “just in time (JIT) supply” ideology was introduced to the US about 40 years ago and it has changed the way businesses operate on many levels. The easiest way to explain it is running as business like someone living paycheck to paycheck, and they're only one missed check away from trouble. This business style is notable for its disdain for redundancy and storage, and supply lines are the only thing that keeps it alive. Here are a few JIT points of interest and how they can be avoided by preppers.

They Say: “Warehouses are Bad, Wasteful, and Expensive” 
The days of massive warehouses full of goods are over for the most part. With the exceptions of seasonally produced goods (mainly agricultural), nobody stocks more than a few days' supply of anything. I've seen a new manager clear out a warehouse full of spare parts at a huge industrial facility (and got promoted for it) because she thought it was wasteful” to have spare motors, pumps, and valves on-site; within a year, half of the cleared-out materials had to be repurchased and put back on the shelves. Various government stockpiles have seen the same actions taken, especially emergency supplies. Selling (at a loss) something you've already paid for just to buy it again later at a higher price seems to be more wasteful to me, but then I don't have a degree in Business Management.

I Say: Be Your Own Warehouse
Your only counter to this is to have your own supplies on hand when they're needed. We have to be our own warehouses, and for preppers that means keeping extra food, water, clothing, and shelter on hand. Storage space can be a problem, so we need to learn to prioritize and keep what we need.

They Say: “Rapid Shipping is a Necessity” 
I enjoy using FedEx and UPS; they make my life simpler and provide a service. There are lots of other shipping companies out there that couldn't survive without the constant demand for immediate shipping of “operating supplies”, the things consumed on a daily basis. This is often the weakest link in the supply chain due to the many ways transportation can get messed up: bad weather, bad roads, bad drivers, and a bunch of other things can all delay shipments for days or weeks. Getting the wrong thing delivered is another common problem.

I Say: Have a Back-Up Plan
If you rely on regular shipments of anything, medications come to mind, have a back-up plan. We get some of our prescriptions filled online and shipped overnight/express, but the local pharmacy has a copy of the prescriptions and can fill them in an emergency. There have been a few times where an extra few days' worth were all we could get locally, but it helped get us through until the order arrived.

They Say: “24/7 Operations Are Now Normal” 
40 hour/5 day weeks are fading into the sunset and most businesses are moving towards having at least a skeleton crew working around the clock to take care of the inevitable emergency customers. Since nobody carries their own stock of supplies, running out of something creates an emergency that needs to be addressed. This, coupled with the digital connectivity afforded by cell phones and computers, has changed how most people work.

I Say: Train Your Tribe To Cover For Each Other
Since I'm one of those “on-call” employees that works whatever hours the customers need, I've set aside times where I'm not available. It took some training of the new hires, but I can now rely on them in the event that something prevents me from getting to work. This allows me peace of mind and gives me time to take care of personal things.

Cross-train your tribe to take the pressure off of each other by having redundant skills. Think about how you'll deal with situations such as having to work different hours or your normal contacts stop offering 24/7 service. I'm somewhat lucky to live in a small town with only one cafe (no stores) that is open 24 hours a day; it's forced me to plan ahead more since I don't have the option of running down to the all-night grocery store if I run out of milk.

They Say: “Central Planning & Projection is a High Priority” 
This is a philosophical and political issue. Is it more efficient and better to have local control over things, or central? The central planners get more power/control over their subordinates (it's a pathological thing for some folks), but local conditions are often ignored. This is not a new issue; America has struggled with it for as long as we've been a country and businesses have fought over it in the marketplace (check out the DC vs. AC, Edison vs. Westinghouse electricity competition of a hundred years ago). 

I Say: Prepare Locally
I'm not a supporter of central planning; it fails too often, and when it fails it impacts a large number of people. Look at most of the laws written in our state capitols and Washington, DC: the people writing them can't (or won't) plan for all of the possibilities over a large area, and we get poor laws as a result. If you want another example, Soviet-era Russia is a study in the failure of central planning.

Prepping is about as “local” as you can get. If you want to see how well central planning works for localities, just read some recent history of “emergency response” by our various government agencies. Organizations that large move very slowly, which is why FEMA tells us to have our own 72 hour kits. Make your own plans and set aside your own supplies.

Redundancy gives you options, and options give you a better chance of getting through a crisis. Look at your daily activities and see where a bit of redundancy can be implemented to help you be prepared; look for that weakest link, and find a way to replace it if it should snap.

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