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Is Your “Normalcy Bias” Keeping You From Being Prepared? with Andrew Jones – Episode 104

How prepared are we really? According to our guest on Off the Grid Radio today… not very. In fact, we have built-in defense mechanisms that seem to get in the way of accepting that our civilization is not only just three meals away from anarchy, but that government is not in any position to be able to help the citizenry much (if at all), when disaster strikes.

Join Bill Heid and Andrew Jones, co-founder of the World Disaster Report, as they discuss disaster preparedness as it pertains to individuals and communities. Andrew Jones is the co-author of Evacuation: A Family Guide for the 21st Century and Surviving Disaster Without Leaving Home.

Off The Grid Radio
Ep 104
Released: June 1, 2012

Bill:                  Greetings and welcome, everybody. It’s Bill Heid with Off the Grid Radio and we have a very special guest actually in the studio today. Andy Jones or Andrew, is it Andy or Andrew?

Andrew:           Andrew.

Bill:                  Andrew Jones of the World Disaster Report, he’s the co-founder. We want to talk a little bit about his website, about what he’s doing, about really documenting the struggles of humankind. How people get through disasters mainly. Andy, thanks so much for coming up. You’ve come all the way up from Georgia; it’s great to have you.

Andrew:           It’s good to be here, Bill. Thanks.

Bill:                  Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing, your background, how you got into this. Because I think when we talked on the phone your story really intrigued me. It didn’t take me long to get to the bottom line with it. I said, ‘Hey you need to get up here.’ As an aside we’re putting one of our power hubs in your trailer and of course, Dave Fink is here with us as well. Dave, greetings and welcome to you sir.

Dave:                Thank you.

Bill:                  Our engineer, Dave’s doing the install with the power hub in Andrew’s trailer. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re up to?

Andrew:           First off, thank you David and Bill. We were excited to find people that were like minded and sometimes that’s difficult to do. I’ve often been accused of having an abnormal personality, but to me it’s always nice to find friends that feel the same. We’ve been working and have interest in emergencies almost all of our adult lives. We’ve been volunteers going on to storms starting with Hurricane Andrew, Katrina, Hugo, and almost every major storm since then. And have watched how these things have unfolded and it appears that they all have the same book, just a different chapter as we go through it.

I have been in the insurance business, an independent agent for nearly 38 years. It’s something that I’ve had to do, but it’s not been something that I necessarily love to do. It’s paid the bills, but we love to be outdoors and helping people. We’ve been volunteers in these events, but I was telling Bill when we called earlier, there was something that happened to us last year that was significant and a change of life. I have a farm down in the Atlanta area, about 50 miles East of Atlanta. Of course we have all the appropriate farm equipment that you need there with skit steers and the like. Most of you know last year was very active hurricane/tornado season. They blew through the Southeast in an unprecedented manner.

I was actually on my Ham radio that night listening to these storms touching down all around us and it was reminiscent of my military days when it was incoming artillery barrages and we were wondering when the next one was going to hit us. We were not hit, but I have some significant interest in Huntsville that were very much in danger. I had three small granddaughters and my daughter, were laying down in their bathtub in their suburban home; right outside of Huntsville in Madison County. They survived it, but some of their neighbors did not. Shortly thereafter we pulled our equipment over there and just started to unload and started to help.

In one yard I had my piece of equipment there and we were taking a tree off of a house and young gentleman came up to me and he was kind of angry. He said, ‘Is that your truck and trailer out on the road?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, it is.’ He said, ‘You need to move it.’ He was just very curt with me and I said, ‘Well, of course. But, why?’ He said, ‘Well somebody will come over that hill too fast and run into that truck and we’ll have an accident.’ And I looked at him questioningly because I was barely able to navigate that road doing 10mph. I can’t imagine much of anybody coming over there with a speed possible to create damage. I said, ‘Okay. Well, that’s fine.’

So I went on out there and come to find out he was a volunteer fireman. I met the chief out on the road and he asked me who I was and what I was doing. They obviously thought I was there for hire and I said, ‘Sir, I’m a volunteer here trying to help my fellow man.’ And we headed off. He said, ‘Well how many of you are here?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s me along with 150 others.’ He said, ‘I wish I knew you guys were coming because I’ve got some work for you to do. We’re maxed out, our resources are gone. They’ve been depleted and we won’t have anybody to do this for a long time. Can you follow me?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’

So, we finished up out job there and we loaded up the equipment and we went to a man’s house that was tore up. We actually have a picture of it in one of the books we wrote after that. He said, ‘Can you take that house down?’ I said, ‘I most certainly can.’ So, the next hour and a half we took the Takeuchi with the grappling hooks and we picked it up piece by piece and brought it up to the street. Well, there was an older gentleman sitting by the road there by the curb and he never took his eyes off of us. He was just looking at that house coming down in pieces. I determined in my mind that this was a gentleman with some interest in that residence.

After it was over the home was left to southern red clay and a pile of concrete and dismantled materials. I backed up the machine, walked over and sat down next to him and I looked at him and I said, ‘I’m sorry man.’ And he looked at me and he said two words, ‘Thank you.’ It just touched me in a way that those two words have never touched me before. I realized I had done more to help my fellow man than I had in 30 years of sitting behind that insurance desk. So, after that weekend I went back home and I sat down with my wife and we were talking about it. I said, ‘You know, we’ve raised five good kids. They’re out of the house. They have their own life. They’re all doing well.

The farm is paid for, we’ve got everything in the world we need and want. I don’t want to do this insurance stuff anymore.’ Based on what my experience was I think that we can actually get out there and make some differences. A long lifetime friend of mine, Mike Riemann, we started talking and we wrote a couple books. One, Evacuation: A Family Guide for the 21st Century is available now on Amazon; authors Michael Riemann and Andrew Jones. It’s a simple little document and I’ve lived on the coast a lot of my life. We know all about evacuation and it deals with simple little things. Have rally points, have go-bags, know where counter flow is going to begin, where it’s going to stop, have gas in your car.

We’ve got forms about communication plans, family action plans. Simple things like this. Then, after the experience of last year I said, ‘Mike we need to go one step farther.’ So, we wrote another book, Surviving Disaster Without Leaving Home; authored by Andrew Jones and Michael Riemann, also available on Amazon. This goes a lot deeper. It deals with individual emergencies and how to deal with them specifically. I wish that we had known, Bill, by then we would have highlighted solar power much more generously than we did. But, it’s how to hook up generators, how to do safe rooms, what to do in the case of tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, fire, flood. Dealing with these simple scenarios and also, it talks about—Okay you can’t make the decision of shelter in place right now.

You’ve got to think about that well in advance because you’ve got to get ready for sanitation, food and water. What are you going to do with your children? What are you going to do with backup electrical power? How are you going to take care of medical issues? What are you going to do with communications? Where are you going to shelter? Are you going to shelter in your home or go somewhere else? What about insurance? Does that deal with your desire to shelter in place? It goes a whole lot deeper and we feel like it gives people a lot of information on how to deal with these issues. It stops short of a lot of things. We didn’t want to get so deep into the survivalists kinds of things.

It deals with issues basically from 24 hours to 24 days, if you will. Anything more than that we would have to write another book. But, that’s what these two are involved. Bill, the other thing that we realized coming out of the Alabama experiences were that these EMAs are wonderful people. They’re in it for the right reasons. They’re doing it for the welfare of their communities. They love their communities. In most cases they could be paid more money doing other things, but they are here because they have a passion for the job. But, the bottom line is they will tell you along with everyone else that looks at the budgets that they are going to be overwhelmed very very quickly.

The staff is being depleted, the revenues are being withdrawn and the demands for services are increasing. So, we came back home with the understanding that the citizens themselves are going to have to take a greater responsibility on their personal and family preparedness. This seems like an impossible task, but it can be done. We’re talking with Bill about techniques on how to do this. He’s graciously agreed to join with us in doing this and our goal is to travel and train communities in conjunction with the Emergency Management Associations in these counties to help these citizens take a greater responsibility; to teach them and help them be better prepared.

Bill:                  Well, there’s certainly a lot there. I think one of the things that people always forget and this is what you’re touching on. You’re touching on responses, but I think what I wanted to talk about a little bit before we go into how we are going to reach all these people is; this fact that conditions change rapidly and resources are finite. So, if resources are barely able to cover now if there is a light weight problem and everyone needs to realize you can’t—we know this in a simplistic way—you can’t get a generator when you need a generator. It’s kind of like at the bank right? If you need money you can’t get a loan. The only time the bank’s going to loan you money is when you don’t need money, right? It’s almost similar, Andrew, with preparedness stuff. If you’re not ready, don’t expect to be able to go out and get the things or do the things that you talk about in your book that moment, right? Because it’s usually kind of late in the game and we saw that in Katrina where people were really disappointed that things had changed. That the landscape had changed and they didn’t get the same level of service from Sammy that they had expected to have.

Andrew:           Bill, what’s happening is that we’re in a normalcy bias. Everybody expects everything to work and to work fine. In Atlanta we have what you guys would laugh at, but we have the snow storms on occasion. Two days before the storm comes they announce it.  24 hours before the storm hits every shopping center/food store in the area is wiped clean. It looks like the apocalypse. But, it’s interesting the first things to go are beer, bread, and milk. In the book Surviving Disaster Without Leaving Home on page 190 we’ve got a list called ‘list of 100 things that might quickly become scarce during a crisis.’ The number one item according to our research is generators. Gas costs so dearly, gas storage is an issue, and nowadays with the additives that they’re putting into the gas it stores even less frequently. They’re risky and they’re noisy. And number two; water purifiers, portable toilets, seasoned wood, and it goes down from there. Power is essential, communications is critical, and communications is dead without power. It absolutely has to be a very integral part in any plan.

Bill:                  I agree and its jusT the idea—I’m sure you probably saw this with insurance a lot of the times—people come to you after the fact and say, ‘Andrew does my insurance cover this?’ And you left that one business—I don’t know how profound an idea this is—but you left the insurance business and you kind of got into another one. Didn’t you, really?

Andrew:           Absolutely did. The difference is from a profession that I had to do, to a profession that I wanted to do. We have real passion here. Through the years of being in the insurance business we see the financial end and the fall out end of the disaster. From our perspective its loss ratios, how can they reduce loss ratios? And every time I saw a claim wasn’t paid, I saw people suffering. So, I was not very well placed in that profession for that reason.

Bill:                  Sure, sure. Well, let’s talk about your military experience, because I think that does enter into it. Our military really we have our good days and our bad days, our good wars and our bad wars. But, we do a pretty good job of assessing risk don’t we?

Andrew:           We really do. I served in the US Army. Went to Officer Candidate School down at Fort Benning and had a lot of experience with the infantry. Of course, the role of the civilian emergency staff and the role of military emergency staff are so very different that they do not mix well at all. But, they basically face the same criteria; understaffed and underfunded. I see with so many of the issues going on in the news nowadays the way the military people are cracking and doing these outrageous things. They hold them to civilian type of conduct standards and I don’t see how they could do that. It’s also very dangerous to send a military personnel into a civilian emergencies because they just don’t operate with the same set of rules.

Bill:                  Expand on that a little bit. I think that’s interesting. What do you mean?

Andrew:           Well, there are rules of engagement in the military. The most passive would be show, shout, shove, and shoot.

Bill:                  Hopefully, in that order.

Andrew:           Hopefully, in that order; which was the engagement orders they had in the early stages of Afghanistan and Iraq. That can get a soldier killed very quickly. By the time he shows, shouts, and shoves he’s usually got a high speed projectile with his name on it. The civilian law authorities have their set of rules of engagement, which deals with legalities. You can’t say this, you can’t do that, you can’t put hands on anyone; you can’t unlawful search and seizure. They have obviously the civilian firearms that are very different than the military firearms. So, it is very different. The bringing back of the military staff back into the civilian life can be very tough.

Bill:      What you said too and we’ll talk about that in a second. But, what you’re saying too I think, we do our military a great disservice—maybe you’ll disagree with me or agree—but we put them in situations and we really don’t tell them. We confuse them by giving them almost a semi-military policing type. So, they have kind of a hybrid task. Instead of saying, ‘Hey, we’re at war with these people.’ You send folks to Afghanistan, to Iraq, where ever, and you put them in this quasi position of not being able to fight a war. You have rules that are difficult to live by as you’ve said. If you told them, ‘Hey, you go in and clean up.’ That would be a lot easier to understand for our military in the field than it would be to say, ‘You’re kind of policing Afghanistan or you’re kind of policing Iraq.’ It just seems unfair to me. And then, you ask people to assimilate that mentally and their friends get shot. They have to kind of scratch their heads and we wonder why we need Xanax for everybody that comes back. It’s crazy.

Andrew:           Roger, roger. You said something there that is a very key word that I jumped on right away; cleanup. You tell a ranger to go into a compound and cleanup. That means something to him, okay? Tell an officer to go into a house and cleanup that means something.

Bill:                  Hopefully, it’s different.

Andrew:           It is very very different. A ranger who has been, or a delta force, or the seals, if you tell them to cleanup, they are going to walk out alone from that facility and there will be no witnesses; chances are. There will be no reporters that are there to report on their actions. The situation has been cleaned up. The threats have been eliminated. That’s what it means to them. Then, you put them in a civilian environment and you say cleanup and they’ve got an M4 in their hands; this is a tough assimilation.

Bill:                  It’s a bad formula there. And there are some troops that have been brought back that kind of have this position back here. Again, you take some troops from Iraq and you bring them back home and give them domestic assignments. Hopefully, it’s clear cut, but perhaps it won’t always be. I don’t know.

Andrew:           It is very hard. I was talking to Bill before the broadcast. I’ve been out of the service over 30 years and I don’t know that I’ve ever actually left it a day in my life. I have had issues so severe, I guess not severe as many of my brothers. I don’t want to compare myself to them at all. But, severe enough for me in my little insignificant life that have kept me from enjoying my life. I have all the reasons in the world to enjoy life. So, just over the last few months I sat down and it started off as a work of therapy. But, I wrote a book that is also available on Amazon. It’s called Everything You Need to Know About Life You Can Learn In The Woods. The only real peace that I ever found outside of family and my faith was sinking myself and immersing myself in the woods. This was the only place that I understood, it understood me. There were dangers there, things that would kill you.

But, I knew where they were. They were not hiding behind me; they were not dressed as a noncombatant with the goal to take my life. It was something that I understood and I drew great solace there. I took the lessons that I learned physically and literally of the way that I see nature and applied it to my life and the way that I think life should be lived. I believe that it could be of great help to many, particularly veterans. There are no specific issues that are in there about any specific conflict relating to the service. I don’t think there’s any place for that. All it deals with is the emotions, the fallout; the things that we have to face as a result of these emergencies. So in a way these things are very unrelated, but they’re also very related. They all deal with emergencies. One with emergencies of nature and manmade, then the other dealing with emergencies of emotion and of life. I’m hoping that it can be of help to people.

Bill:                  I’m looking through your book and I’m intrigued by The Trees Have Rings, chapter nine. Just reading through a little bit, I think it’s fascinating and I think what you have to say here could be of great help to another returning vet, perhaps. If our listeners have people that are having some difficulties there or just anybody who is maybe having a little bit of problems getting it all together. I’m looking at page 63 and I never imagined a tree that way, as you’re talking about it. I suppose if you go sit in the forest for a while and you start contemplating things, a la Thoreau or something right? You’ve got a moment to sit down and think. I think your metaphors are very creative here.

Andrew:           Well, if you see the life rings of a tree that has been cut down. Each one of these represent a year, as we all know, relatively speaking. In that year there is experience and the more rings there are the more growth there is. The more grow the there is the larger the tree becomes. It’s just like people. In each one of these rings there are experiences. In each one of these rings there are tiny cells. In each one of these cells could be memories. But, that tree as a whole has one appearance, but when you dissect it you realize it has the same experiences we do. It could have disease. It could have trial based on its shape.

It could have heavy winds based on its ability to withstand the winds of adversity. It has roots, if it doesn’t it will fall. It representative of its strength just like we are. There’s a couple of chapters here, what I call dark that deal with some of the more particular issues relating to struggles of life, the abyss, and then the windward side. Sometimes guys like me based on my background for various reasons, life is something that they cherish, but living it is something that they don’t. They would just as soon not be burdened with the ongoing challenge. We’ve all faced this I think at times. There are some chapters in here that deal with that. For me, it was very helpful.

Bill:                  Well, there’s that quote that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ It’s clear to me, Andrew that you’ve done your share of examining your life and these paradigms that you examine and explore in the book are really revelatory of that.

Andrew:           I hope so.

Bill:                  I had never seen this book before, but just as I peruse it this is very thoughtful stuff. I know you are a man of faith and that enters into it. This book is going to help a lot of people if we can get the word out. It’s Everything You Need to Know About Life You Can Learn In The Woods by Andrew Jones. We’ll carry that and it’s also available on Amazon, so you can just get on there if you like. What’s the guy, Jeremy, who owns Amazon? I can’t think of his name. Anyway, we’ll hold it on and we’ll put it in our store as well. That’s something that you should think about getting. But, let’s move on to, how are we going to get this word out for the average person? What motivated you—we’ve heard your story thus far—and gave you the impetus, Andrew, to get going with this idea? A lot of our guests that are innovators and doers, at some point somebody just says, ‘I’m going to do that.’ You just said, ‘I’m going to do this.’ And I love that perspective.

Andrew:           That is exactly what we did. My partner Mike, we’re very different. He’s very detailed and involved, wants all the answers, wants a full game plan, and it was very frustrating for him. I said, ‘Mike, let’s go do this.’ He said, ‘How?’ I said, ‘Well, we get in the car. We drive down there.’ So, I started with our local EMA director who I am friends with.

Bill:                  And what does EMA stand for?

Andrew:           Emergency Management Association/Administration, these are typically the guys that are in charge of coordinating assets in case of emergencies. Now, it’s interesting when an emergency happens they’re the most important person in the county. But, 364 days out of the year they’re three layers down from the mayor’s office. It becomes very frustrating for them. There is a high turnover rate in these positions. Like I said, they’re very good people, in it for the right reasons, highly educated. Just excellent quality people. So, I said let’s start with him. We went down and I pitched the general idea to my friend in Walton County, Georgia. I said, ‘Here’s what I see. We’ve got a situation where you’re kind of in a pickle. There’s going to be a lot of trouble come when things happen and what are you going to do?’

He said, ‘Andy, typically here’s what happens. I ask for these things and I don’t get them. I ask for these people and they don’t have the budget. So, when something happens they will probably blame me for it and I’ll get fired and they’ll hire somebody else. Then, they say this will never happen again.’ We laughed about that. But, what is interesting in the presentations that we have made to the county since then, they have shared common sentiment. I have said, ‘This is not right. This is not the way a government should be run.’ So, we have approached these EMA directors and said, ‘Guys we have go to change the way we think about emergency management. You can’t do this; you know you can do this. You have an impossible mandate, if you will.’

‘We believe that the attitudes should change. The government should not be directly responsible for the preparedness of the citizens or their families. The families should be directly responsible for themselves. Here’s what we need to do. We need to train them into how to do that. Let’s put on a community wide family training event. Here’s the trick, we can’t call it a training event. Who wants to come to a training event? That’s sounds terrible. So, what we’re going to do is call it an emergency preparedness fair.’ We’re advertising it through the schools. The EMAs have a lot of influence within the community. We send flyers to the school system; the kids take the flyers home and say, ‘Mom, I want to go to a fair.’ We’re going to have fun there.

We’re going to have rides there. We’re going to have attractions there. And oh, by the way, while the kids are riding these rides Mom and Dad will be looking at solar power generators. They will be looking at go-bags. They will be looking at non-hybrid seeds. They will be looking at equipment on how to prepare themselves. In every kind of way, we will be building up faith based volunteer resources. We will be soliciting support for Red Cross, for all the civic organizations. The Mason’s have programs to help identify kids. The sheriffs will be talking to the kids about finger printing them, stranger danger; public service careers, a very nonthreatening simple way to do this. The Fire Department will be there with all the toys.

The EMA directors will have a chance to personally and directly talk with the citizens and build a relationship himself. To basically try to get support for the things that he needs. In the process of doing this there will have to be a volunteer committee formed to organize this fair. This volunteer committee will usually involve a LEPC, Local Emergency Planning Committee, or a VOAD, Volunteer Organization Active in Disaster. They’re several other civilian groups that can be formed and in their efforts to organize this committee, they will then become the ad hoc emergency planning committee for the community. So, when we come we put on this fair. Thousands will hopefully come from the community.

They will be introduced to all the resources they need physically, literally, emotionally, and spiritually in how to survive disaster. They will know where to get these resources in their community. We will bring some vendors with us, for example, Solutions From Science. These guys are represented across the country. We plan to change that. We will have their products on scene, so that when we leave they will be able to contact them directly. We will invite local vendors to come and promote their wares. So, that when we leave they will know that there’s an Ace Hardware or Home Depot or whatever that actually has this facility. We will leave them plans for storm shelters that are actually in the Surviving Disaster book. There are FEMA plans that we actually have here. We will be talking to local hardware stores about having a material list and a blueprint. So, you can come build one of these things in your basement—if you have a basement—in an afternoon on a Saturday and be better prepared. The bottom line is we literally feel we can save lives.

We hopefully won’t ever have to do that personally, but we believe that through our combined efforts we will be saving lives and making the community a better place. Relieving the burden of the EMAs, so that they can deal with more serious emergency situations and let the civilians help better take care of themselves. Also, I might add that another addition to our services is to be an additional resource to the EMAs in the event something happened. We want to be invited to come in. We will bring our volunteer operation center, this being outfitted as we speak with solar power to be able to be a communication center for the county, for the civilians, and also help coordinate volunteers. So, they will become an asset to the first responders, rather than a liability.

Bill:                  I think this makes a lot of sense because so many of our listeners are libertarian or have a view of the government should be smaller. But, the only way that we can do that is by taking part in something ourselves. It’s like if Grandma is in the nursing home and is on public aid, you can’t just go say, ‘I want less government.’ You have to take her out of the nursing home on public aid or pay her nursing home fare or take her home. You have the same thing here as well; you can’t expect the government to do something that you told them not to do. If you look at Greece, even last night, in Europe—especially in Greece—what we’re seeing is that the austerity programs that they wanted to put on, they’re just having trouble with resources. They spent all their money. There’s no way that they’re going to be able to help their citizens without people helping other people.

Andrew:           It is so sad. We were actually in Greece. We were in Athens, Greece during the height of these riots. Those rascals stranded us on Crete. We could not get off of Crete, because everything there is public; the taxis, the buses, everything shuts down. They shut down the airlines. You can’t get in, you can’t get off. We were prisoners on Crete, when they were throwing fire bombs. I walked through the line of protesters and walked into the headquarters. They had taken over one of the little museums and I walked in there and said, ‘Who in here speaks English?’ This young man raised his hand and I sat down with him. I said, ‘What are you doing? You’re killing the tourists here. We can’t get off the island. It seems to me like tourism is important to you.’ He said, “Yes it is.’ I said, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He said, ‘Because this is all we’ve got.’ See, it’s self destructive. It’s so sad.

Bill:                  It’s spiraling down.

Andrew:           It’s spiraling down, when a government becomes so in control of everything it becomes in control of nothing. We cannot have reduction of government services without there being an increased demand on the citizens. This is what we’re saying. Joe Blow citizen, we complain about our government, great. Let’s do this ourselves. There are some things we don’t want to do. We don’t want to go into burning buildings without PPE, Personal Protection Equipment, without the training. People die this way.

There are things that they need to do. But, they don’t have to do all these little things that we can be doing. We can be getting prepared. We shouldn’t have the EMAs coming to rescue a volunteer whose cut his leg off with a chainsaw that he’s not qualified to operate. Or show up in these areas and create congestion in an area they need to get emergency equipment to, because we’ve got untrained people coming in that shouldn’t be coming in. Let’s train them. Let’s prepare them and be an asset to the community rather than a liability.

Bill:                  So, let’s open this up a little bit, Andrew. If someone wants to become an asset, what’s the best way? You’re kind of going county by county. Is that right?

Andrew:           We are. Our goal is honestly, we’re soliciting national vendors so that we can piggyback off of the resources of national vendors. We’ve talked to various insurance companies. We’re talking to various home supply companies. Until that happens we’re going to be working county by county until we can get the resources of someone with some horsepower. We could push this thing nationally very very quickly with an infrastructure of an insurance company, for example, by using their existing resources. We almost feel like its important enough and timely enough that we need to move this faster than we can do it ourselves. This needs to be done across the country, right now. There are several ways that we can do it. The idea is very well received. We have never walked into one of these county EMAs and not lit their eyes up and that’s hard to do. These guys are pretty tough cookies.

Bill:                  Are they full time? Let’s say here in this county. Carol County, where we live is a small county. You’ve made contact with an individual.

Andrew:           Yes. He’s going to see us this afternoon.

Bill:                  Is he typically paid by the county government?

Andrew:           Yes. In most cases they’re government employees, but what we have found in the smaller counties is the EMA director is also the animal control guy and he’s also in charge of 911. So, where’s his loyalty lie there? Its very interesting, in some of the major cities in the East we have been very disappointed that they have no volunteer support. They have very little support and then you go into some of the smaller areas that have a lot of good things going. The key is the civilian involvement. That’s it.

Bill:                  And don’t you think it’s going to change? A lot of times people will say we’ve got this professional class and because of insurance reasons, training, whatever it is; we want to make this clear line of demarcation between them. Keep professionals doing X, Y, or Z. As they run out of money, Andrew, they tend to start opening up a little bit right?

Andrew:           Well, they have to. The line of demarcation as you say, we’ve got to break. The presentation that we make with the county directors, we have three circles with the EMA in the middle. These are three interlocking circles. In one circle we have the faith based resources, which is a tremendous asset. Guys they are very uncoordinated. They are coordinated within themselves, but they are not coordinated with each other—the faith based resources, for obvious reasons. Then, you have the volunteer groups; the Kiwanis, the civic clubs, Red Cross. They’re great, they do their thing.

But again, it’s almost like we’re in the same scenario that we were in California before the National Incident Command System was created; after all the houses were burned and they were cleaning up the disaster there. After action view they sat down and they said, ‘What the heck went wrong.’ They realized that there was no central command. There were no central resources. No one was coordinating this overall effort. We had all these independent departments running after this thing, without knowing where it was going. The fire department and the police department weren’t even coordinated. So, they setup National Incident Command, which has greatly improved the quality of disaster mitigation since then, exponentially. We’re saying that the same situation exists in our cities and counties right now.

We have the professionals here that cannot do the job if something happens. They have got to pool in these resources. So, the three circles that we have together; the faith based, the civic groups, then the radio guys. They all need to be coordinated. If nothing else in one central location and has contact with the EMA. The EMA needs to be able to say, ‘Aries, I need amateur radio emergency services group. I need you up here, I need you now. Red Cross, I need you up here, we need you now. VOAD groups, we need you here, we need you now. This is what I want you to do.’ By the process of putting these fairs together it will already have been done. All they have to do is mobilize them.

Bill:                  You’re connecting dots along the way? That’s one of the main things that you do.

Andrew:           We really are. It’s the same process that was done in NIMS.

Bill:                  Okay. So, if someone wants to get involved. Say someone is listening to this and says, ‘I’d like to be helpful in my county.’ What do they do? Obviously, we can send them to your website: That’s one way, and we’ll put these links on this podcast as it goes out. We’ll try to make sure everybody knows that this site exists. But, you can hit contact on your website; you can use the contact button. What’s going to happen to somebody that says, ‘Hey, can I get involved? Tell me, what can I do?’

Andrew:           Well, because we are limited resources now, based mostly in the Southeast. Obviously, we have mobile capability. If we get enough requests in one area we will make contact and we will go and we will get it started.

Bill:                  So, you’re open to create for our listeners, you’re open especially if it’s close to you?

Andrew:           Yes.

Bill:                  If it’s in border states in the south you’re going to be more easily attainable? Let’s say somebody in Kansas wanted you to come up. You’d need a few, quite a bit more response to make that work just because of the logistic?

Andrew:           Yeah. That and again, we’re in the birthing stages of our organization. We’re funding this out of my limited retirement. We retired successful and like I said, after that Madison event we came back and we started selling our companies and we’re okay. But, until we can get a national sponsor we will respond. It would be on a limited basis, but what we can do—we have all of the boiler plates, we have all the forms, the procedures. We have a media kit, how to make this thing happen. There has to be a local volunteer group in order for this to run.

We physically do not run it. It has to be endorsed, if you will at the top level. Or usually we will go into the EMA and in many cases they are the decision makers. They say, ‘Yes. We are going to do this. This is where and this is when.’ Most cases they have to go to the county commissioners or the city commissioners. We have made presentations in both and we have always been successful. It’s just amazing how well the message is being received. They see the need. But then, there has to be a date picked, a venue located, and a point of contact. Once those three things are identified, then we can start releasing the information.

This is how this thing needs to flow. The invitation goes out to the local vendors; they need to identify the local vendors. They need to make contact with the local vendors. Some of the ones that are not so easy we can do. For example, we’ve had requests for the FBI; we’ve made contact with the FBI. We’ve made contact with the utilities that will bring out what they call power towns. It’s a mock disaster scenario where power lines are down on top of telephones, cars, and entrapments. There’s training involved in that. Usually these regional kinds of people we have contacts we do that.  We’re bulldogs when it comes to making telephone calls. If we get the number they’re not going to get away from us until they tell us to go away.

Bill:                  So, you’ve a got a pretty good rapport with some of the groups that you need to put together. My guess is some people are going to call you, email you, go through contact, and say, ‘I’m interested in this.’ So, you setup a fair and you go. What’s the nature? You try to attend a fair that already exists and you put this all together. So, it’s kind of tied more closely or for you to hook up with a county fair, is it not?

Andrew:           Bill, nothing like what we’re talking about has ever been done before.

Bill:                  Okay.

Andrew:           We’re talking about county fair on steroids taking off with the Ironman.

Bill:                  Okay. That’s an image I am trying to create in my mind.

Andrew:           This will be a 1950s style county fair. Everyone comes. There will be vendors, displays, children events. This is a family event where everyone comes. Basically if anyone needs to be prepared, they need to be there. It’s a very big target market. But, sometimes what we’re finding is in counties they’re putting on these little expos if you will. We went it no one county where the fire department had and expo. The police department had an expo. And the housing department had an expo. They get 100 people each. Again, they’re not pooling their resources.

They’re doing their own thing. So, we’re saying, ‘Have you ever thought about putting this together and making this a city wide event, a county wide event?’ Some of the EMA directors that we’re talking to are what are called ‘regional directors.’ So, they’re in charge of multiple counties. In almost every one of these cases they say, ‘Not only are we going to do this in our county, we’re going to do this for the region to invite everyone.’ Again, the more people we can bring in, the more they will be trained. Because they see the more we help promote this, we’re making their job easier. We literally are.

Bill:                  Sure, sure.  So, people can go to and hit the contact information and get a hold of you to see what you’re schedule is. You may not be able to be in all places. You have limited resources at this point, but you’re setting you’re schedule up now. So, now’s kind of a great time to break this, especially for the summer. There’s already some fairs that go on, let’s say for example, this area. It would just be great to tie in—so you don’t have to have a separate thing—to tie in some of these events in with gathers that are already going to take place to minimize your marketing costs and so forth. So, it would be great to just tap in and you get all your people. It would be a great place for everybody to get together.

We hope to have you up here in September if we can book that up with you later. We’ll invite everybody up here for this and maybe we can add some things to it and have a lot of fun. Before we wind down, I think it’s really great to have you here.  What do you see as the biggest threat? As I go on world disaster report and look around, it’s a wonderful website. You’ve been through a lot. You’ve seen a lot. If you were to name one, two, or three things that really are issues in your head. Issues that keep someone like you awake at night. You’ve got grandkids. You’ve got a family. What keeps you awake at night, in terms of thinking of what people aren’t prepared for the most?

Andrew:           Bill, the number one things is, Katrina taught us this; our civilization is three meals away from anarchy. It is a very frail society. How many of us have three days’ supply of food in our refrigerator? We go from our work, the grocery store, and home in order to have dinner. If the infrastructure of this country shuts down or in a city; if the city goes down, or the grocery store goes down, the power. It will not just be discomfort, it will possibly be violence. The darker of our city will emerge. This is a very very real threat. We have become so dependent on the infrastructure, particularly electronic infrastructure. That any break in that grid, people are basically good wonderful people. But, when they’re faced with emergencies or crisis sometimes they change. They make judgments that are not good because they are scared. We have a little phrase in our organization; if you are prepared you should not fear. Preparation is…

Bill:      Sure, sure. Don’t you think too that the people today are a different caliber, in other words ‘the people?’ I think basically, people behave in our culture—this is the point that you are making—but if you read Steinbeck and you go and say well, when things go kind of tight in the ‘30s—Of Mice and Men or some of these books and I love reading Steinbeck because it is somewhat bleak—but folks then still had a culture. This goes back to the idea of faith that kind of was routed more in something of an earlier period. So, they had a faith from their fathers or their grandparents to drawn on.

If someone did get out of hand and murder someone over something it made the news, it was a big deal. Today, you can murder someone in Miami and it doesn’t even make the paper. So, I guess what concerns me is—I guess where you are going—there’s a spiritual side of this where I think we’re most ill prepared, because I don’t know if you can just build spiritual capital overnight. You can go get a month’s supply of food just by calling us or a number of other vendors that supply food. But, you can’t make this existential phone call and get your faith, your family’s faith, your culture’s faith changed overnight. I see that really as the predominant problem.

Andrew:           Absolutely, Bill. I think all the statistic in the surveys will show that the nation is becoming increasingly more secular. They draw their faith, if you will, their strength, and their spirituality from things that are based on the earth. Manmade things that will fail, that will break, that will rot, or spoil. This is again, going back to my book about the woods. Things do spoil there. Things do rot there. But, they renew and they grow. They grow within their own set of orders. There’s no way that anyone can live out there and not know there is a greater purpose for man than who’s going to win the next race, or who’s the fastest runner, or who can throw the ball the farthest or fastest. There is a power there that all of us need to understand. We need to come to grips with. I believe that power is saying, ‘Be prepared.’

Bill:                  Be prepared. Contemplate your life. I think that is probably the most valuable lesson. I look at your books and see what you’re doing. The idea really is, step back and just think about all of these things for once. Life goes by pretty quick. You’re going to work. You’re picking you’re kids up at soccer. The next thing you know, it’s the next day, the next day, the next day. But, if you can slow down, step aside, and just start thinking about these rings of this tree that you talk about in chapter nine of your book. I think that’s a powerful thing to anchor you in and I think it will help you make some decisions about how you want to move forward. I think you, I, and everyone here are trying to advocate—like insurance. Go ahead and pay the premiums because it’s worth having if something gets destroyed.

Go ahead and make your preparations and do it now, because you can’t get resources when you need it most. That’s really the other side of the issue that we hammer at so often. When there is a shortage of something, if there is a crisis… If we get for example, one of these—over the weekend, Andrew, there was an article in Nature from some physicist about another solar storm. He said, I think it was a 12 percent chance that we would get another Carrington level in 1859 where they had this severe solar storm. There’s a 12 percent chance that in the next 12 years we’ll get a Carrington level storm. Well, if that does happen, because as you’ve mentioned with the emphasis we have in electronics to sustain ourselves. That would disrupt you in such a way that unless you really had done some preparations it would be difficult for a lot of humanity to survive that.

Andrew:           EMP represents—well that would be a natural EMP—but it represents one of the greatest threats in my mind that a country would or ever could face, because we’re amazingly dependant on electronics.

Bill:                  Anything you want to say as we kind of close up, Andrew?

Andrew:           It’s good to be here. I’m glad to be associated with you, Bill, and all of the group here. I look forward to a long and prosperous relationship.

Bill:                  We can’t wait to get your trailer all fitted up with a power hub. It was great to have you here. We look forward to having you here, Andrew, in September.

Andrew:           Thank you very much.

Bill:                 Thank you.

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