Last weekend, with Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Northeast, shoppers hurried to the store for emergency supplies—bottled water, canned goods, batteries—only to find their neighbors had beaten them there. The government has tried, after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina, to encourage Americans to anticipate disastrous events; FEMA recommends keeping a disaster kit at the ready. But according to a 2009 survey, only about half of Americans do so. In general, we’re still terrible at preparing.
But what if the problem isn’t people’s willingness to prepare but the way we’re taught to think about “preparedness”? Ana-Marie Jones, who runs a Bay Area organization called Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters, tries to get people to realize that all is not lost just because they’ve failed to tick items off a shopping list. Instead, she trains people to think more resourcefully, and realize that in a genuine emergency, everyday objects—a fork, a Ziploc bag, a bandana—can become preparedness supplies.