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Are You a Kook? Really, who are the crazy people…

This is an older post we are moving to our new blog site, please overlook any dated references.

‘Being prepared’ is just for kooks, right? You know; the fringes of society that are huddled in their Y2K bomb shelters leading a meager existence waiting for the world to end. The religious zealots, the guys dodging black helicopters that wear head-to-toe camo to the grocery store, the unlucky alien abductees; oh, and don’t forget the conspiracy theorists with their highly polished tin foil hats.

Not many people will voluntarily put themselves in one of these categories. However, you probably already have a bit of a preparedness streak.

Consider this – you recognize the danger that fire poses to your home and family so you take out fire insurance, install smoke detectors and probably have at least one fire extinguisher. Perhaps you have gone to the next level and practice regular family fire drills so your kids know what to do in case of a fire. Maybe you even have multiple fire extinguishers recognizing that a small fire can be put out if you act quickly.

The fact is no one looks at the fire scenario as “being prepared”; it is simply common sense. In fact, many would say that it is negligent not to take these basic steps to protect your home and family. So, why is it common sense to “be prepared” for a fire, but crazy to “be prepared” for other threatening scenarios, i.e. an extended power outage, or a food shortage, or a home invasion?

According to an NIH report, there are 410,500 home fires per year killing 3,190 people. That certainly sounds like a lot. With hundreds of thousands of homes catching fire every year, killing thousands of people, no wonder society approves of being prepared for a home fire.

Of course most of you realize that those numbers, while scary, don’t really mean anything until you provide context. There are an estimated 113,567,967 households in the United States and 307,268,340 people. That means that a whopping 0.36% of houses will have some sort of fire and 0.00104% of the population will be killed by said fires. According to 2007 UCR Crime Statistics you are 458 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than death by barbecue.

It is not the statistical risk of fire that makes it acceptable to be prepared, but more the fact that modern society approves of the individual taking steps to deal with the possibility of a home fire. However, this same society does not approve of you taking preventative measures to protect your family from other forms of potential harm.

Society has a way of defining our expectations about what is normal and acceptable. The constant bombardment of Hollywood movies, commercials, magazine ads, news and political propaganda guides us into accepting a constructed, artificial picture of the world. Modern culture creates an expectation that thirteen year old girls should dress like hookers and you simply must buy the latest Nike rocket-powered shoes or your kid will never make the football team. Celebrities are gods to be worshiped and your life is a void if you don’t keep up with the latest TV shows

Even though these examples are somewhat outlandish and easy to recognize, the effect that societal pressure has on our thinking is pervasive and not easily overcome. Recognizing this societal influence is the first step towards opening your eyes and making your own decisions about what is, and what is not, important in your life.

Once you shed the need for the artificial approval of society, then you can examine the world from a more grounded point of view. I certainly think the effort put into protecting your home from fire is well worth it. The statistical risk is small but the downside is substantial. Taking steps to protect your family from other types of disasters, both natural and man-made, may well be just as meaningful. Recognize that it is your decision to make, no one else’s. It is simply a job of weighing the risk versus the reward.

In fact you can make the case that the real kooks are the ones lining up to read the latest celebrity gossip, or the ones whose lives are planned around television programs. The real kooks are the people who choose to ignore the daily reminders that the world is not a utopia. In my opinion the real kooks are the ones that have handed over the responsibility for their safety and the safety of their loved ones to a government bureaucracy.

Self-reliant, confident, capable and prepared individuals are the very types of people that built our country. Take a basic, common sense approach in protecting your family – “be prepared” (but do resist the urge to wear MultiCam to the grocery store…).


U.S. Households

NIH Fire Data

U.S. Census (Pre-ACORN adjusted data)

U.S. Crime Statistics



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