Van E. Harl


If you fail to prepare – you prepare to fail. I am sure my father the Navy Master Chief said that to me more than once in my younger days.

As I was flying to Keesler Air Force Base, in Biloxi, Mississippi on an Air Force C-17 transport aircraft, I had to wonder if there are more than a few people in the Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi area who had failed to prepare. Because they had failed to prepare for the possibility of extreme bad weather they had set themselves up for potentially life threatening circumstances.

We have a problem in this country with understanding the difference between “insurance” and “assurance.” All but the very poor who allegedly have nothing to loose understand our society expects us to have insurance. By law many states require you to have insurance for your vehicle. Think about how much you spend every year on life insurance, health insurance, home-owners insurance and of course auto insurance. For some families it is multiple thousands of dollars that is spent, never expecting to see that money again, except if you have a situation that permits you to file a claim with your insurance carrier.

The idea with insurance is, if you have a small loss or a total loss of everything, such as in a house fire, you can get money to rebuild. The insurance company gives you money to move to a hotel while your house is repaired. It is inconvenient but you get on with your life in somewhat of a normal manner.

But how much do you spend every year to “assure” that your family can survive and continue to function in a situation like that which hurricane Katrina had provided for the people of the above three states? In this case the populace had plenty of warning and many years of practice runs to get ready for biblical destruction.

I was looking at a couple of pieces of literature put out to the public telling them how to prepare for a natural disaster. The 72 hour rule seams to be used by everyone who prints a disaster pamphlet. One pamphlet said you should prepare as if your family was going on a three day camping trip. Nothing special, just having a long weekend of fun in the wilderness, with mom, dad, the kids and the family dog. What a bunch of (B)ravo (S)ierra. That kind of planning is for when a large wind storm comes through town, and knocks out the power for a couple of days. That short term recommended planning is close to being criminal, as far as I can see. You have to be ready to stand on your own for weeks and that takes coordination and the expenditure of money. Most people do not want to take the time or shift the money from buying that third colored TV for the guest bedroom, to assure the safe survivability of their family.

We live in a 911 society. We truly expect to pick up the phone and have all our fire, medical and police needs fulfilled in minutes. Why waste personal money for emergencies when the city, county or state will provide with just one call.

As the C-17 descended over Biloxi it became very apparent that Mississippi, the state second only to Nevada in gaming revenues had gambled and lost. The Air Force had anticipated recurring bad weather and build Kessler AFB to not only survive the storm but continue to operate. You cannot just have survivability you have to have operability – continuing to function in your life. There is even a passage in the Bible about not building on weak and shifting sands. So, somebody had figured this out thousands of years ago, what has happened since?

One of the pallets that was on the C-17 had a safe and allegedly a half million dollars in cash. When there is no power the ATMs and electronic money fail to work. In time of crises cold, hard cash is king. Even the US Air Force has to pay cash when hard times hit. Suppliers do not what to turn loose of a 1000 sheets of plywood that can be sold for twice the value, to someone in uniform who just wants to give them a letter saying Uncle Sam is good for it.

How much money do you have set aside at home in case of a natural or man made disaster? Aim high and start preparing for the next big one.