PORTLAND, ORE. — My car was recently pulled out of a traffic line at the Portland International Airport and subjected to a Homeland Security search. Actually, "search" isn't an accurate description. An officer read a prepared statement explaining why random checks were being performed. After I consented to the procedure, he gave the back seat and rear storage area of my Subaru a cursory look and waved me on.
Since I keep the car free of clutter and suspicious packages, the process was short and simple, which made me happy because I was running late to meet a relative flying in from the East. But in retrospect, I'm a bit uneasy. The fact that I passed the inspection in a few seconds means I'm doing a lame job in the area of emergency planning.
Because the country now spends a lot of time in a state of alert that fluctuates between yellow and orange, all citizens are supposed to be ready in case of sudden catastrophe, natural or terrorist-sponsored. And at some point during the past five years, disaster experts began to point out that lots of people will be sitting in cars when a significant event occurs, so it makes sense to keep small stockpiles of supplies in our vehicles.
Sounds reasonable to me. Many of us can cite incidents to support the notion. My wife has a friend who was driving on a country road and had to stop because a tree had fallen and blocked both lanes. Fortunately another driver came along who had a chain saw in his trunk, and he promptly cut the tree apart and got traffic moving again.
But if you made a list of needed items based on anecdotes and potential hazards, you'd end up with a document longer than "War and Peace." What if the road I'm driving on gets blocked by a lightpole instead of a tree? Should I focus on surviving inside the car and waiting for help, or leaving it behind and walking to safety? All of this assumes I'll be alone. Things could get complicated if family members or the dogs are riding along with me.
You can also turn the entire concept of disaster planning on its head by abandoning the traditional defensive tactics and shifting to an aggressive approach that exploits the misfortune of others. Using this method, it would make sense to invest in a portable refreshment kiosk that I can quickly remove from the car, set up on the nearest street corner, and charge desperate customers outrageous prices.
Profiteering during periods of national crisis is a common thread in the fabric of American history.
For now, the home front is top priority. Bottled water and canned goods are easily accessible in the garage, unless the roof collapses. Would it be better to bury a cache of supplies in the backyard? And the car issue is still unresolved. When it comes to being prepared for all possible disaster scenarios, I feel I'm moving slowly on a long and winding road.