Domino Effects of Disasters

October 02, 2020

Why you should be preparing for the perfect storm of SHTF.

  1. History of the government’s dealing with disasters
  2. Possible scenarios
  3. Martial law
  4. On your own
  5. Preparing for the “when,” not the “if”

Most government agencies have challenges facing one disaster or crisis at a time.  The reality is that a few major events occurring at the same time would be catastrophic.  You don’t have to look too far back into history to see bungled responses to hurricanes, fires, civil unrest, and tornadoes.  The government response, while well-intended and well-planned out, somehow still falls short when people need safety, water, or food.  Between FEMA and the many individual heroes, we somehow, mostly make it through to the other side safely; but have we just been lucky?  What happens when we have more than one disastrous situation happening within the same timeframe?  What happens when one disaster dominos into a second disaster?  It’s not unrealistic to imagine a major hurricane striking during this time of pandemic.  It’s not unimaginable that the lack of food and water would result in civil unrest, looting, and other crimes.  A wildfire or tornado forcing people to evacuate and centralize in a single evacuation shelter could result in a skyrocketing pandemic.  Do you feel safe putting your and your family’s safety in the hands of the government?

In this blog, we’ll look at how more than one major event happening within a limited timeframe would lead to a domino effect cascading into a full blow SHTF scenario and leaving you and your family to fend for yourselves.  There are things you can do to prepare for “when” this occurs and go beyond the “if” it occurs.  Let’s take a look at the 5 components of a domino effect in disasters.

1- History examples of the government’s dealing with disasters

Michael Chertoff, then Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, testified to congress that “The idea that this department and this administration and the president were somehow detached from Katrina is simply not correct. We were acutely aware of Katrina and the risk it posed.” Despite Chertoff’s claim, George W. Bush wasn’t made aware of the failed response until four days after the storm hit.  And despite Bush’s address to the nation on September 15, 2005 where he stated: “This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We are going to review every action and make necessary changes, so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature, or act of evil men, that could threaten our people,”  America’s response to hurricane Maria wasn’t any better.

While we are not criticizing any particular administration, as we think they do try their level best to deal with what mother nature throws at them, they are, after all, only human.  Humans do make mistakes.  Sometimes the government doesn’t manage its resources well.  In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery received 5,880 rotted protective masks from the national stockpile with a 2010 expiration date.  Which administration is responsible for that is of little consequence to those impacted.  The fact that it occurred, however, should indicate your need to become more self-reliant and less dependent upon the government riding in to rescue you.

Further complicating any effective response to disaster is the hyper-partisan nature of politics.  Though people are suffering and in great need, congress needs to have its vote.  This held up aid in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy caused major flooding.  History is clear with examples, it’s foolish to rely upon a partisan government to save you when the chips are down and your life’s on the line.

2- Possible Scenarios

There are several possibilities that can turn a standard disaster into a larger, life threatening disaster.  Some are obvious.  When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and the southern states, freshwater supplies were flooded with sewage, chemicals and swamp water.  The risk of poisoning and dysentery rose significantly.  Desperate people looting whatever sources of food and water were available rose significantly.  Many police officers didn’t show up for duty in the early days of the disaster as they tended to their own family’s needs.  The later accounts of orders to “shoot looters,” “take back the city,” or “do what you have to do” were fragmentary. And it remains unclear who originated the orders or whether they were heard by any of the officers involved in shooting 11 civilians in the days after Katrina. 

Police officers said the police orders – taken together with tough talk from top public officials broadcast over the airwaves — contributed to an atmosphere of confusion about how much force could be used to combat looting.  Repeatedly, history has shown us that the structures and protocols of order in society can rapidly evaporate.  Could a response to a disaster lead to a declaration of martial law and significant government overreach in the name of “public safety”?  How might a downed power grid as a result of flooding and a poor response with fresh water, food, and temporary shelter aggravate and agitate an already traumatic experience?

Now witness the large scale civil unrest occurring across America today.  How would the perceived injustices compound a natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake, flood, or tornado?  While it may have been difficult to imagine a domino effect of disasters beyond just lack of fresh water leading to dysentery in the past, we can easily see it now.  Imagine if the “big one” hit California and forced Californians to seek shelter in neighboring states.  During a time of pandemic and partisan politics, how would these refugees be welcomed?  With open arms?

Even amidst a global pandemic, a massive dedicated denial of service, cyber attack occurred in early June.  If it had been more widespread or effective, what would be the cascading effect of an interruption in water or power, even the internet, during a time of wide scale lockdown?  The effects of COVID-19 have exposed how fragile our economy and food supplies really are, as meat processing plants were forced to shut down and farmers and ranchers had difficulty bringing their products to market during the early days of the virus.

3- Martial Law & Government Overreach

The most realistic possibility following any disaster is the threat of Martial Law and government overreach.  The government sees its mandate as one of maintaining order and public safety, but what happens when that perception goes too far and encroaches on your freedoms and mobility?  We have seen curfews imposed in cities and rising conflicts in several major cities.  Martial law and government overreach out of the need to provide public safety, can stem directly out of any disaster.  It’s a manmade added layer to any disaster, natural or publicly induced.

Martial law would give the government the ability to suspend your constitutional rights, seize your firearms, impose curfews and restrict your ability to travel, even confiscate your stores of food, and imprison you without cause.  When martial law is established, there is always the very real possibility that the government will go too far, take too much power, and not allow you to do what you need to do to survive.  You could be forcibly swept up in the chaos along with the general public.  This is why being prepared to bug-in and being prepared to bug-out is so critical to your survival.

Even with the best response from FEMA, the local and national government, and local law enforcement, you are really on your own.  Even with the best intentions and efforts for the public good, the chances of these efforts encroaching upon you and threatening your own security are very real.

4- On Your Own

So finding yourself on your own isn’t a far fetched concept.  It is actually a likely reality.  This is why we will always encourage prepping.  It isn’t about fearing what could happen, it is about being prepared for what will likely happen.  So many have become overly reliant upon the police department, fire department, even the grocery store, when time-after-time, our over-reliance has proven detrimental.  This is why we will always try to encourage people to practically prepare themselves for the worst that could happen.  It’s the same advice we give our friends and family and the same advice you probably give your own.

Knowing you may be on your own is frightening to think about.  Rather than avoid thinking about it, preparing for the possibility, taking precautions, and learning the skills you may need to carry you through provides you with the internal resources and confidence to rise to the challenge.  It’s much better to look back and think you didn’t need certain supplies afterall than it is to look at the present and realize you don’t have what you need to survive right now.

In every survival movie we have ever watched or book we have ever read, the survivor either drew upon skills and knowledge they didn’t realize they had or they, with great luck, stumbled through on trial and error.  You don’t see many movies where a person was fully prepared for a catastrophe, then the catastrophe hit, then they rode it out to safety.  Why?  Because the prepared person doesn’t have the same level of conflict as the unprepared person.  The prepared person, finding themselves on their own, already knows the right steps to take to prevent their descent into the chaos that accompanies any disaster.

So, though we always hope that the right services and people will find us when we most need them, the wise and prepared person plans as if they will be on their own.

5- Preparing for the “when,” not the “if”

As the recent pandemic, a situation we have only seen every 100 years or so, has proven, it isn’t a matter of if a scenario will occur but rather when it will occur.  It may not make sense to prepare for a comet hitting the Earth or the Yellowstone Caldera exploding, but you would be foolish not to prepare for an earthquake in California or a hurricane in Florida.  Prepping is a critical component of your self-reliance.  It’s you establishing and asserting your independence from a system that will, at some point in your life, probably fail you.  It has, even with the best of intentions and efforts, proven itself to fall short numerous times throughout our collective history.

Preparing based on probability is a better, more focused approach to prepping, and we have to calculate into our plans that disasters will be compounded by other disasters.  You should be preparing for more than just one possible disaster.  Prepare as if a convergence of two or more disasters has occurred.  The domino effect sparked by either a natural or man-made disaster will be at least as dangerous and life-threatening as the originating event in almost every case.  Knowing this, what can you do to prepare? First, make a list of both national disaster scenarios that have a low to medium probability of happening and a list of regional disasters that have a high probability of actually occurring.  Rank these disasters according to the likelihood of them occurring in your area.  You, obviously, would not have Tsunamis high on your list if you lived in Missouri, but you would have tornados and flooding high on your list.  Once you have your list ranked, contemplate what other manmade disasters might add to or compound the severity of the original disaster.  Group them according to disasters which can lead to other disasters.  This should then tell you the immediate threats you should prepare for.

So, start by detailing what would happen if multiple issues converged at once.  It is that intersection of probable scenarios where you should do your planning and preparedness.  When government systems and infrastructure are overloaded or failing and each person is on their own, will you be prepared enough to last in and see through to calmer times?

Inevitably, disasters will occur.  You can choose to live with your head in the clouds and pray nothing bad will ever happen, but history reveals a different story.  Storing food, water, and the medical supplies you need to last a month or more independent of the system may seem overwhelming at first.  This is why I suggest addressing your needs with the convergence of two or more probable events.  Focus on the when this will occur and not as much on the if it will occur.  The need for food, shelter, water, medicine, and self-defense is common across all disasters, so it should form the basis of your planning.  If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you may want an automatic gas shutoff valve installed or a wrench near your gas line before you purchase an inflatable dinghy or emergency fishing supplies.  That’s an obvious exaggeration, but do rank the prepping supplies you will need based upon your scenarios and begin to chip away at the list a little each payday or each month.  In no time, you’ll be prepared.  At the very least, you will be better equipped to handle a crisis situation when it occurs.


The domino effect of disasters approach helps you to focus on the probable disasters that are most likely to directly affect you.  It gives you a basis, a roadmap of sorts, that you can slowly build upon.  Based on recent events in our country, people are quickly realizing the value of being prepared.  You aren’t crazy or even kind of weird for wanting to insulate yourself from threats on the horizon.  Doing so is what separates you from the herd that will be caught up in the chaos and aftermath of cascading disasters.

As always, please stay safe out there.

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