Commonsense community security

No one seems to have a meaningful handle on where our economy is headed. Comparisons to past recessions or depressions may carry some weight, or maybe not—conditions are different, the world is more crowded, the credit markets have changed in scope, and resource availability has fallen to name just a few obvious changes.

What we know for certain is that human needs haven’t changed. Food, medicine and fuel are critical to our lives.

We all remember the gas shortage here in WNC last fall. Within days stations across the region were looped with yellow tape and home-made signs reading “out of gas.” Some folks were caught short with empty tanks, others waited in long lines and followed the story in the media to learn of arriving tanker trucks. Bus ridership increased and many folks reduced their driving by making fewer or better planned shopping trips.

In the current economy businesses that are carrying a lot of debt could collapse very quickly and we’re already seeing the disappearance of some local small businesses. But there are other businesses in the supply lines of food, pharmaceuticals and fuel which may be in the same critical shape as excessive debt collides with falling sales. Our local governments need to be in touch with major retailers as well as the hospitals, asking for as much information as the businesses are willing to share about their own financial health and the prospects for their suppliers.

For example, how many sources supply insulin and heart medications to the WNC market? Those medications are not optional for those whose lives depend on them. If one supplier folds, are others available? The same is true for bread and other staples. We all know how fast the prospect of winter storm can empty the dairy and bread shelves at local supermarkets. But what if a major supplier or transport company fails? How long would those shelves be empty?

I don’t make these suggestions to be alarmist, but I learned long ago as a Boy Scout to “Be Prepared.” We are experiencing very uncertain times and it simply makes sense to do what we can to be ready for possible difficulties.

(Thanks go to Greg Sills for a very thoughtful conversation that fueled this blog entry.)

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