Empire Editorial: Hope for best, prepare for worst

Seven days. That’s how long food stashes should last for anyone living in Alaska, according to the state.

Compare that to three days for folks residing down south.

Zero days. That’s how much the City and Borough of Juneau has in emergency food supplies.

A press release this week from the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs announced the department intends to award VF Grace, an Anchorage-based, veteran-owned company, a contract to purchase $1.24 million worth of non-perishable, freeze-dried food items that will last 25 years.

40,000. That’s how many Alaskans, out of nearly 700,000, that this food cache will feed for seven days. The food will likely be stored in two locations — one in Southcentral and one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

We can’t help but feel a little left out.

Yet information officer Jeremy Zidek said those two locations were picked for good reasons: they are major transportation hubs. The Southcentral location, he said, will be able to serve Southeast with no problem, even if a catastrophe requires the state to get help from the National Guard, the Army, the U.S. Forest Service or the Coast Guard.

He said the food will exist to “provide for folks who cannot provide for themselves.”

In small-scale emergencies, we can see how this food cache will come in handy. It could be life-saving for those who need it most.

At the same time, there are plenty of disasters that could cripple the state, requiring residents in satellite communities like Juneau, Hoonah, Sitka, Gustavus and Petersburg (to name only a few) to survive on their own when it comes to supplies.

We’re not here to bash the state. Zidek said emergency plans have come a long way from 1964, when a magnitude 9.2 earthquake rocked Alaska and officials found their nuclear war survival plans didn’t account for natural disasters. Whether it’s cold-weather generators to power hospitals, mobile communications vehicles, or simple shelters and sirens, agencies are certainly more prepared than years past.

Alaskans have always been self-sufficient, but we’ve become less so in recent years. The fresh veggies and fruits of winter all come up on the barge or by plane. Our oil is piped out before being shipped back in, refined and ready.

In today’s world, we shouldn’t get complacent about self-reliance. We should assume Southeast won’t get a cut of that state food cache in an emergency. Learn the arts of fishing, hunting and how to preserve the spoils of your efforts.

Zidek said all households should secure seven or more days of food, water and a safe, indoor heat source. Learn how to start a fire or run a generator safely, and how to build a shelter and safely use a firearm. And if you already know these things, teach others who don’t.

Its not enough to rely on our government for a bailout.

As the anniversary of two of Alaska’s biggest disasters approach — the 1964 earthquake and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, there’s no better time than the present to wise up and get prepared for a worst-case scenario.

• Empire editorials are written by the Juneau Empire’s editorial board. Members include Publisher Rustan Burton, rustan.burton@juneauempire.com; Director of Audience Abby Lowell, abby.lowell@juneauempire.com; Managing Editor Charles L. Westmoreland, charles.westmoreland@juneauempire.com; and Asst. Editor James Brooks, james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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