by Beth Buck Recently I was informally tasked to measure the level of preparedness among all the residents of my neighborhood. I asked them questions like, “How much food storage do you have? Do you have a family evacuation plan? Do you have a 72-hour kit?” Only about a third of the people I surveyed had anything at all. Since I live in the Intermountain West where emergency preparedness is a big part of the public consciousness, I felt that the state of the community wasn't too bad. Yet there is always room for improvement. I laughed out loud when I read one response. “Yes, I have a 72-hour kit, but it hasn't been updated in a couple of years.” Ok, so that would actually be a “no,” then. Why “no”? Oh, man, where to start? We preparedness types love to sit around in the evenings and tell horror stories about food and supplies that haven't been rotated in decades. Inedible granola bars! Rancid beef jerky! Too-small changes of unseasonable clothing! My own grandmother has in her basement a container marked “Dad's wheat.” This referred to red wheat berries that once belonged to her father, who passed away in 2000. And in fact, we have reason to believe that this may have been the same wheat he purchased for storage just before the United States entered the Second World War. I myself inherited from relatives packages of stale powdered sugar that expired during the Reagan administration. The list could go on for pages. If you've been in the preparedness world long enough you've probably seen it all: Old beans that never softened no matter despite being boiled for days. (Literally: days. This is not an exaggeration.) Sweets of all kinds fit for nothing but to be thrown in the trash. Rusted cans, stale cake mixes. Dusty spices. How does this happen? How is it that those who care the most about efficient use of resources stockpile so much of stuff that just gets thrown away? Simply put, it's because these people believe that having the stuff is what makes them prepared. “I'm good. We're fine. We bought our 72-hour-kits/ food storage and now we don't ever have to think about it ever again.” This is not an adequate preparedness mindset. Imagine having to evacuate your home with nothing but your family and your 72-hour-kits. You drive for hours and finally Replace a cheap motel. You look forward to pulling out your snacks and goodies stored in your kit, only to discover that they are so far gone not even the bravest among you can stand to touch them. Angrily, you turn to your spouse. “When was the last time someone checked these?” “Well, our five-year-old's kit has infant-sized clothing in it, so…” Not thinking about it ever again is how things go rancid. Acquiring your stuff is only the first step. Now you have to make sure it's always up to date and know how to use it. The time to rest on your laurels is never. Always know where your kits are, what is in them, and how to use the supplies they contain. Don't hoard your wheat for your great-grandchildren to inherit. Use it on a regular basis to make bread, pancakes, and waffles. Why bother to keep a compass in your kit if you have no idea how to use one? To really be prepared, you cannot rely on the things you buy to save you. Even the coolest survival gadget is useless unless you practice using it. Preparedness should be part of your intentional way of living. If you (yes, I am speaking to YOU, gentle readers) haven't gone through your kit in the last six months, take some time to do so this week. If it's been a couple years, it's even more important for you to do so. Because that's the thing about emergencies; you never know when they are going to happen. And when it does, do you really want to have to live on ten-year-old canned green beans? Beth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.