Plan B

Do We Need A Plan B?

A reader (Thanks, Janet!) sent me this article from the MSNBC Red Tape Chronicles and asked for my thoughts on the matter.  The article's writer questions the usefulness of having a "Plan B" in a corporation or infrastructure.  The impetus for his question was the triple failures at the Japanese nuclear power plant.  The earthquake took out the cooling system.  The tsunami took out the back-up generator system that should have powered the cooling system.  The battery back-up to the generator system was only designed to run things for a couple hours, not for a catastrophic breakdown.

The author posits that a Plan B might look good on paper, but won't make the cut when a real disaster happens.  He lists a number of examples when that has been the case, and offers three reasons why "Plan B" will fail:

*Synchronization failure. It's harder than it looks to keep the backup system in the exact same state as the production system. Think about all the software patches that are installed on your computer; is the software on backup computer completely identical?

*Bad fallback plans. Many failures occur when a system is being upgraded. Risk managers stress the need to be ready to fall back to the system when it worked before, but sometimes, that's not possible. The New York City public library once lost thousands of records this way, as did the Dutch criminal system, Neumann said. In the latter case, criminals actually went free.

*Not in working condition. Backup power generators can sit idle for years. They might be full of fuel, but are they full of lubricant? Are gaskets dry and prone to cracking? Can they really handle a long-term full power load? Hospitals struggle to keep backup generators in working order. More than 100 hospital deaths during Hurricane Katrina have been blamed on the failure of backup power generators; many hospitals simply hadn't planned for 15 feet of water. Even when generators worked, they couldn't power air conditioners to fight off triple-digit temperatures.

So how does this apply to us as individual preppers?  A common mantra is, "Two is one, one is none."  Essentially, if you have something (could be anything: power, water, food storage, weapons...) you can't depend on it unless you have a backup or redundancy.  Does that mean you need two generators, double the water and food storage you need, or two of each kind of weapon in your safe?  No, not at all.  But it's probably a good idea to have some spare parts for your generator, and maybe one of those solar rechargers for your cell phone or a Wagen Power Dome EX.  Maybe not double water, but some stored water and a Berkey filter as backup.  Perhaps break up your food storage and keep a week or two worth at a neighbor's house.  Full size Glock?  Maybe also have a subcompact in the same caliber so you have magazine compatibility.

Periodically try out your backups.  The article's writer dismisses drills because you can't make them realistic or as stressful as a real disaster.  So what?  You can and should still test your backups to be sure they work.  Nobody wants to be the person who fires up the back up generator only to find that you got the wrong cord.

Finally, there's maintenance.  Every first of the month, I put out a list of reminders.  They're just as much for me as for anyone else.  Since I started doing it, I haven't failed to start up my generator and run it under load.  And it's worked every time.  That hasn't always been the case.  I've made that trip to the small engine repair guy with a hurricane bearing down on the coast.  I don't want to go back.  A spring has sprung, I found another task I need to add to the monthly list.  Fire up all small engines each month.  I found a dead battery on my riding mower (that's now working thanks to my charger) and my push mower not starting (next weekend's project).  My chainsaw and string trimmer will be on the same schedule.

So, back to the original question...  Yes, we do need a "Plan B."  But we need to make sure our "Plan B" works, and we need to keep it working on a regular basis.  It's probably a good idea to have at least a "Plan c" (lower case, not as extensive as the "B"), and if your particular circumstances dictate, there's room for D and E too.  Just stay on top of what you have.

What are some of your Plan Bs?  Leave us a comment to share your reasons.

1 comment:

  1. It's always a good thing to have something to fall back on. The disaster in Japan was like the "Perfect Storm" scenario. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. This rarely happens. Have a "Plan B" and a "Plan C" ready just in case. Not everything has to have 5 redundant plans backing things up, just the most important things is where it is necessary. Great post.


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