When you talk with people about crisis preparedness (be it in regards to natural disasters, economic collapse, terrorist attack, or whatever) you quickly realize that most folks have the same tendency to react with categorical denial of the obvious. We all create certain safe and predictable ways of dealing with the world that involve some slanting of reality. In order to cope with life, and make it more tolerable, we may distort, embellish, or ignore certain aspects of our environment, our feelings, or our memories. There are things we just don’t want to deal with because they are too painful, we fear them, or because we may get overwhelmed by such information. For most people, crisis preparedness topics fall into this category.
Curiously, the most common excuses for people refusing to prepare are also the most irrational. If you talk to people about this subject, you will most assuredly come across the following illogical reasons.
It is comforting to believe we would be safe if a city-wide crisis ever occurred. However, most of us are not prepared for living in a city without power and with low supplies if any of food and water.
If such an event happened, most people wouldn’t remain in the city they reside in for very long. Those of us who live in metropolitan areas are dependent on the things that come with it.
Cities Cannot Feed Themselves!
Every populated city is man-made. Towns are constructed so people can socialize, participate in commerce, and benefit from public services like water, sanitation, education, mail delivery, and much more. But just as we are dependent on the things a city provides, the city itself is reliant on a supply of resources like water, food, and power in order to provide that functionality. Even though water and electricity may still be available from outside of the city by means of pipelines and cabling, the population of a city still needs a regular incoming supply of food to live on.
No city is capable of feeding itself. Not one. Cities are ultimately reliant on food that is imported by farms. Without food coming in, grocery stores would run out of their stock within a week.
Risks in the City
The city can undergo a major crisis in the event of a water, food, or power shortage. In the event of a disaster, cities would face:
Riots after the collapse of social order.
Lack of water filtration or deliveries of fresh food.
A food supply shortage.
Long-term disruption of electricity.
Even though these outcomes won’t happen in every populated city, they could in yours. Let’s go over some of these scenarios:
The Collapse of Social Order
“Social order” is a fragile thing. It stands as a psychological obstruction that could easily fall apart. We have all observed massive riots in the news, many of them instigated by an unfairness of some kind that results in a dispensation of repressed anger and frustration. The L.A. riots that followed the verdict of the Rodney King trial saw Los Angeles citizens torch their own city. Residents were pulled from their own automobiles and literally beaten to death. Firemen trying to put out fires were shot at! In 2005, we all observed the violence, looting, and complete disintegration of civilization after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. We are days away from ending this year and 2020 wasn’t so different, and trust me when I am saying the problems are just starting.
What leads to such chaos in any of the above examples?
The concurrent disintegration of the psychological obstacle of order!
After people realized law enforcement wasn’t able to manage the chaos or weren’t around to help, the police were perceived as being incapable of protecting them. Some saw the police simply leave their posts behind to leave citizens fending for themselves, which canceled out the concept of “Law and Order”.
Nothing was stopping anyone from simply going to the local store and simply taking things without paying for them. They unleashed their frustrations about racism on innocent victims who were driving in the vicinity, and they ran amok on a path of ruin that only ceased when the National Guard, armed with rifles, arrived to restore order. As such, only the risk of sudden death brought violence and looting to a stop. It’s amazing what the sight of a rifle can do. Think about store owners seeking shelter on the roofs of their establishments armed with AK-47’s, shooting at anyone who came close.
Even worse, think about the reckless mob shooting at the rescue helicopters attempting to deliver supplies to helpless victims of the rioting. The National Guard ultimately restored order. This was an isolated incident in one city. Consider hundreds of cities going through a similar experience. Could the National Guard save them all?
Very unlikely, I’m afraid to say.
What about each town’s law enforcement divisions? They aren’t idiots; if things look bleak, they’ll choose to protect their own families first, and more than likely find safe refuge elsewhere as many officers did during the crisis in New Orleans. A pension isn’t worth dying over. Some towns could be changed into combat zones in one night. It would warrant complete military force and martial law to feasibly restore order to the area. There just aren’t enough people in the military to protect every city, should such events occur.
This downfall of social order is maybe the biggest risk to consider when contemplating remaining in a city amid a catastrophe.
What, then, would provoke this downfall of social order? An absence of three key necessities: water, food, and money. When people lack food, they may start to ravage their neighborhoods to replenish their stock. Before long, cities are under attack. Some locales may be able to keep things under control, and the Red Cross will be able to help them. Other cities will see their levels of violence escalate. Visualize the gang-ridden areas of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and St. Louis. It is unlikely people are going to behave in a civilized manner under chaotic conditions in those areas.
Already armed with guns, many people will feel the need to use them in such situations. Racial tensions have been building up to give people a reason to begin shooting at others of the same or of different colors in order to get what they want.
In the event that food and supplies make their way into chaotic cities successfully, a lack of money will lead to mass theft and looting. As crime increases, the social order will further collapse.
A lack of water will also lead to the “every man for himself” mentality, and perhaps very quickly. The disassembly of social order is disastrous since it doesn’t warrant any specific breakdown of telecommunications, a power grid, banking, or transportation. Social order is a psychological frame of mind, and any worldwide scare can hastily eliminate the mental barricade that essentially maintains order.
The Failure of Water Treatment and Delivery Systems
Can water treatment facilities prevail in the middle of a crisis? Some will and some won’t. The issue lies in determining whether the one you depend on will. Water treatment facilities rely on electricity, and experiments administered on several plants have already isolated some system weaknesses.
During one particular experiment, a water treatment plant discharged a deadly dose of fluoride into the water system. The computers mistakenly believed they were 99 years behind in distributing fluoride dosages, so they tried to adjust the difference. Anyone who was downstream and drank the water met an early death. Regardless of how much a dentist tries to say otherwise, fluoride is a lethal poison. A large disaster is probable in multiple cities.
The most vital question to ask here is what will happen if the water supply ceases to flow, or if it becomes contaminated. You might be aware that, even though individuals are able to remain alive without consuming food for as long as three weeks, ongoing consumption of water is mandatory for every human being. You can last as much as three days without drinking water, but past that, you’ll be struggling and could very quickly die.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that people will do what they feel they must to get water in order to stay alive. The hardest places to acquire water will be in populated cities. Most trusting people will assume any water stoppage will be temporary, and that the government will work diligently to resolve the deprivation. The panic will set in mere hours after a lack of flow of water, though.
A couple of days into the water shortage, people will become worryingly aware of the problem, and social order will start to collapse, as referenced in the prior chapter. People will start to scavenge for water, and they’ll immediately check retail stores first. Needless to say, in such scenarios, it won’t take long before all shelves inside these stores will be ransacked. Since the liquids won’t last for very long, you’ll see the population displace quickly, as people will relocate or go on searches for water outside of their own locales. Some will take to rivers and streams in the country, while others will go on looting sprees, stealing from homes and shops, using violence to take what they need.
Should a stoppage of water occur, you can expect the following events in run-down cities:
Small disruptions of violence while looting is happening. Retail shop owners will be inclined to defend their businesses with firearms, whether or not it is legal to do so.
Large traffic jams on outbound highways as a result of gas running out in vehicles, mid-transport, which will inevitably block main exits, trapping people in cities.
Grocery stores will be purged of all food by at least the third day of the crisis.
Farms and houses near major cities will be raided for supplies by people likely to be carrying weapons for protection and intimidation purposes.
Populations will dwindle down rapidly as a result of people abandoning their homes to find water supply sources.
A water-based epidemic will break out as people start to use rivers and streams as a bathroom. Those using streams and rivers as a toilet will infect the entire drinking water supply. Filtration units can only prevent so much and will become overrun, eventually shutting down. Once the flow of water stops, the disease will start to set in.