May 30, 2012
FEMA Follies, and Other Notes On Survival
By David E. Petzal
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t dwell on survival but I got a response to “More on Preppers,” post of May 4, that I think will interest you. It comes from a friend who did two tours in Vietnam as a Captain in Special Forces, and finished out his time in the Army Reserve. He wrote:
“This post reminds me of the time I worked with a dozen other Reserve officers on a project for FEMA.
“FEMA at the time was little better organized than a Boy Scout troop [maybe less organized, actually] and our project was to inspect all the supplies remaining in the in the basements of the Civil Defense shelters in the Bronx, New York City.
“In those supplies that still remained, we inventoried all the 30-plus-year-old cans of water and biscuits, dried-out and cracked rubber gas masks, and obsolete Radiac meters with their long-dead batteries. It was one of those waste-time projects that I thought only the military could dream up. I doubt that anyone really planned to replace the stuff.
“Subsequently, we were to write an evacuation plan for the orderly exodus of the of the city population in case of a nuclear attack.
“We were about a dozen active-duty veterans, ranging from Captain to Brigadier General, and represented all branches of the service. Each and every one of us knew there was no way such an evacuation was going to happen. Decades before Katrina, we knew the impossibility of rapidly providing food, fuel, and transportation for 8 million people. Only civilian bureaucrats could seriously envision a doomsday scenario in which all the Reservists, National Guardsmen, city police, and bus drivers would abandon their families and show up for stay-behind duty.
“We wrote the report and told FEMA of the strategic, logistic, and personnel requirements for the best plan we could devise. Then we followed with our assessment that it was a completely unworkable fantasy. I never heard another word about the plan.”
This reminds me very much of a scene in the BBC doomsday movie “Threads,” which dealt with a nuclear attack on Great Britain, in which an emergency administrator is frantically trying to contact his cohorts in the city of Sheffield. He can’t, because they’re all dead, as he himself soon will be. There is no water, no food, no electricity, no hospitals, and no one who can bring any kind of order. No help will be coming from outside Sheffield, because there is nothing left there, either.
During World War II, when Merchant Marine sailors went into lifeboats after their ships were torpedoed, many committed suicide after they were not rescued in a few days and it became apparent how awful their ordeal was going to be. I suspect the same thing would happen in the event of a major national disaster.
Many preppers, I think, operate on the premise that after a while things will get back to normal, and their exercise in survival will be just a diverting chapter in their lives. However, when the lights don’t come on, and it becomes apparent that they never will again, and that this is going to be the way it is forever, I think a great many of them will lose interest in sticking around--their granola hoard and home-made booby traps notwithstanding.