6 Lessons Disaster Teaches About Self-Reliance


Tag: Community

Southern California is no stranger to disaster. Whether we’re dealing with wildfires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, or mudslides, we’ve had our share of emergencies over the decades. During or after previous large-scale emergencies, we’ve all seen media images of people rummaging through rubble or waiting in lines for access to food or medical items. We know it’s happened to others, but until we’re faced with a specific situation, we often don’t realize the severity of the crisis and the importance of self-reliance.

With all the disasters we’ve faced over the years, many of us probably figured we had a handle on preparedness — but as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re learning about a new level of disaster, and a completely different type. In many ways, we’re adapting on the fly. However, we’ve learned some lessons about self-reliance during previous disasters that we can apply to the current crisis. Here are six of them: 

Survival Tools Are a Necessity

Having survival skills in your proverbial toolbox is critical for when the unexpected occurs. At a minimum, everyone should know basic safety, first aid, and CPR. If the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed, as it is in some areas now, knowing these skills can be essential.

In our digital age, it’s also smart to know “old-fashioned” skills that predated technology. Learn how to read a paper map (because GPS service might be spotty, and familiar roads may be closed), cultivate seeds and grow food, cook with dry beans and other basic staples, and memorize crucial phone numbers. Other practical skills, such as changing a tire or driving a manual transmission (stick shift) car, could also prove useful under emergency or life-threatening circumstances.

Do you have the tools you need for a disaster? Photo by Haupes Co. on Unsplash

Finances Should Be Accessible

Having cash on hand and an available line of credit is always a good idea. If utilities and services are disrupted, you never know when you might not be able to get to an ATM or have access to your tech. Lock up a reasonable amount of cash in a safe place, build up an emergency fund in your bank account, and try to keep your credit card debt down. You may encounter an unexpected need to make purchases on credit.

Stash some cash in a secured location in your home in case of emergencies. Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Clutter Can Get in the Way

It doesn’t take a disaster to recognize the drawbacks of being weighed down with unnecessary possessions. A flood or earthquake can leave a trail of destruction. If a fire sweeps through, you might not have time to save much — if anything. Don’t wait for a disaster to happen to clean out your clutter. If you’ve got a lot, it’s worthwhile to price and rent a dumpster to help you remove it all. Lighten your load now, so you’ll be able to focus on the important stuff in the wake of an emergency. 

The current health crisis has taught us that preppers might not have been too far off the mark when it came to building storage areas for holding necessary supplies. Make room now, so that once the pandemic passes, you can stock up on essential items such as nonperishable foods, drinking water, toilet paper, disinfectant, and bleach. You don’t want to be stuck again without these items down the road.

Having the tools is only part of the battle; keeping them organized is key. Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

Technology Should Be Streamlined

Today, people heavily rely on technology, which is convenient — but unfortunately, this dependence can also lead to a fragmented existence, especially if everything is saved on different devices. It’s worthwhile to streamline and back up your digital valuables, including passwords, important files and documents (scan those you might need in an emergency), and cherished photos.

Cloud storage can be a helpful tool in accomplishing this (for as long as the electrical grid and the internet hold out, at least). Storing your digital data in the cloud is a smart way to get organized and ensure that you’ll have access to your documents even if your devices become damaged, lost, or otherwise inaccessible. 

Other tech details to take care of include: extra chargers and cords (for phones, tablets, and laptops) and extra phone batteries. In addition, keep an emergency radio and batteries on hand so you’ll always have access to critical information in a time of need.

Keep your technology simple and easy to access. Photo by Martijn Baudoin on Unsplash

Networking and Outreach Are Still Important

Physical safety needs come first, but if you’re under quarantine and aren’t in any imminent danger at home, you can still focus on your business and/or career. Networking and customer outreach might be the last things you’re thinking about, but now’s a great time to build goodwill and share a little kindness with others who may be having a rough time.

You might have some promotional items that you don’t need right now. Help your fellow humans by distributing items that could be helpful. Think tote bags, water bottles, or other multipurpose tools. And if you have any extra supplies, such as toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant, or other useful and high-in-demand items, consider offering your surplus to neighbors, employees, or customers. They’ll remember your kindness later on when things open back up.

Many local organizations are accepting volunteers and donations of in-demand items. Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

A Readiness Plan Is Vital

As a part of your toolbox, get familiar with what you need to know to prepare for an emergency. Have a readiness plan in place, and don’t overlook important details. As early as you can, give your plan a good test run to ensure that it works. It’s also useful to get acquainted with local resources that are available. 

However, while you can turn to official channels for guidance in a major emergency, it could be difficult to reach help if thousands of others are also in need — so take steps now and become more self-reliant to navigate future events. Knowing how to handle an emergency on your own is worth the effort. It might even mean the difference between life and death. Taking these steps can help you be ready for a disaster before it happens. 

Top photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


Jessica Larson is a married Midwestern mom and a solopreneur. She creates online courses for students, and has founded and operated several other businesses through the years. Her goals are to support her family while still actually spending time with them, to act as an entrepreneurial role model for her two daughters, and to share what she has learned through The Solopreneur Journal.