*Things I've Learned From Mexican Swine Flu*
A Personal Debrief
By: Island Girl
28 May 2009

It is easy to think that you are fairly well prepped until you are staring down the throat of a threat and realize what your holes are. Unfortunately, someday that could mean the difference between life and death.

When pandemic strikes, it strikes FAST. I, personally, had not heard anything about the Mexican A/H1N1 until suddenly everyone was panicking. That is my own fault, as I was distracted by other things and not watching as closely as I should have been. For me, at least, it went from barely entering my consciousness to front page news in less than 2 days. I had thought it would be a more gradual build up when it did hit. Going from 3 to 5 on the WHO alert scale as quickly as it did, really threw me, after it being at 3 for so very long with H5N1. I've been watching H5N1 intently for almost 2 years now, and that led me to believe that I would have a lot of warning and build-up time. That was definitely not the case.

Whether or not you can find the relevant supplies at the last minute was very interesting to watch. Many Rubies found it that the shelves were bare of alcohol based hand sanitizer, whereas in my location, by the 5th day after the news hit main stream media, there were 40 ounce bottles of Germ-X at the end cap next to the checkout at my nearby Wal-Mart for $5.12 a bottle. I believe those had just been trucked in, as I had not seen them anywhere in the store prior to this. If it is possible for retailers to make a buck, they are going to do whatever they can to cash in. I was also very interested to note how many people walked up to the display, pointed it out to their shopping companions, and walked on without buying any. Considering it was, to my thinking, a very good price, it gave me pause: even with all of the news stories everywhere we turn, am I the only one in my community who is bothering with hygiene? A scary thought. In my community, I never had trouble finding basic items like bleach, thermometers, medications, etc. In many cases, the shelves were full. That was more disturbing than comforting, as I indicated to me that the sheeple didn't care.

I did find that it is really easy to get caught up in panic buying. I did not really "need" any more N-100 masks or hand sanitizer, or cleaning supplies, but once everyone else started posting about those things, I couldn't resist buying another case of N-100's, as well as "last minute supplies" at the local stores. Nothing that I bought wasn't good to have, none of it is going to spoil, and not only will it be used, but it will add to my preps. But if I'd kept my head, I probably wouldn't have run off half cocked. Likewise, shopping during the onset of a possible pandemic is probably not the wisest place for me to be. I'm ashamed that I did not yet have my inventory finished, that I have been procrastinating. Had I finished it, I would have checked my lists and reassured myself that I was, indeed, well stocked.

Threat assessment is very difficult indeed, and nobody is going to make the hard decisions for you. In my case, my husband was deployed, so it was entirely up to me whether or not to pull the children out of school. I like to have someone to discuss and "bounce things off of" but I didn't have that, and can't count on it when push comes to shove. We are in the suburb of a major city that had a dozen cases, and most people in my community do commute to the city for work. The school district did make it clear (on day 5; it took that long for them to formulate a plan) that they would not close any schools until there was a confirmed case of a student or staff member in that particular school, and until the county health department ordered the closure. Since, as I understand it, victims are contagious for about a day prior to being symptomatic, and I have asthma, I had to decide whether to keep my children home anyway. The school district made it clear that there would be consequences for that action, up to and including failing grades and making them repeat the grade/classes. They had no plan in place for my children to "telecommute." The school does not have any alternatives in place, and will only allow you to pull them out for homeschooling if the letter is submitted within 2 weeks of the semester. Since I can't plan when the "real" pandemic will strike, this is going to take additional planning to finesse. Obviously, staying healthy is more important than academics, but making the decision in real time as to whether "this is really it" was a lot more difficult than I had realized it would be. The indicators were not as clear cut as I had imagined they would be. I definitely need to finesse my "trigger points."

I need to work harder on training my children on self sufficiency. If TSHTF and I am incapacitated, I will feel better if I know that each of them are well trained in keeping things going. I have no doubts about the oldest being able to run the household for a short period of time, but if both he and I were incapacitated, the younger two would be in dire straits. I have clear plans formulated, but realized I have neglected in sharing them with the younger children. I immediately began writing instructions in kid-speak, and training them on how to survive and thrive until some form of help arrives. I immediately rearranged the preps pantry so easy to eat foods are at the level the three year old can reach, and began training her in small steps toward self sufficiency. It wasn't smart to only have canned goods on the lower shelves; now the things she can prepare on her own like peanut butter and crackers are at her level, and she knows she has permission to help herself when she is hungry, rather than wait to be served.

I had a little lesson in that sheeple are extremely frustrating. Specifically, I posted a link (to the local news that reported cases of swine flu in the local area) on my Facebook account, and immediately, my next door neighbor, who is an RN employed by the local hospital, replied, "What's the big deal? Flu kills 30 thousand people every year. So what?" (36,000, actually...) Even the school nurse for my son's school, who is an acquaintance of mine, was uninformed on what a pandemic is and accused me of panicking when I was simply trying to feel out where she stood, what info she had, and what the school's response plan was. My reaction was to get angry, as I discovered how frustrating it is to have educated myself beyond the level of some "professionals," but to have zero credentials to back my knowledge up. It was a big lesson to me, both in OPSEC and in learning how to deal with frustrating sheeple. I realized that I have a very big lesson to learn about how to constructively deal with sheeple in this sort of situation.

In all, this pandemic trial run has been a fantastic opportunity to finesse my preps and discover what works, and what needs more work. I am not at all satisfied with my response, and I have a lot to do.

What did YOU learn from this?

Happy Prepping!

Island Girl

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