In September 1976, Soviet Air Defense Command pilot, Lieutenant Viktor Belenko, flew his highly classified MiG 25 fighter jet to Japan, landed at an American Air Force Base, defected, and asked for asylum. Part of his acclimation to American culture was to allow him to travel randomly through the United States. One of the observations he made was everywhere he went, the stores were full of fresh, healthy produce. Not rotting and unappetizing as he had experienced in his native country. He was certain American officials had predicted his moves, gone ahead of him and staged the “fake” displays just for his benefit.
Every few days we make a trip to the local grocery store. Under normal circumstances we make our purchases and fill our shopping lists with nary a thought about how all those items came to be so plentifully available for our needs. We want them and there they are! Simple as that. Unbeknownst to most of us, our grocer’s shelves are filled using a technology known as “Just In Time” inventory management. Commonly referred to in the business as, “J.I.T.”
Excess inventory is a waste of company resources, (translated: costs go up), while too little inventory is damaging to customer confidence. “They NEVER have what I want!”
To maintain that delicate balance of inventory, J.I.T. is maintained with a set of precise and delicate shipping schedules from a variety of vendors to keep our stores stocked so we consumers always get what we want. At the same time, the razor-thin profit margin is protected by this oh-so-fragile system we have taken for granted.
So let’s pretend for a moment there is a glitch in the system. A major cataclysmic event notwithstanding, say an ice storm in a major city which serves our area. Highways are closed, trucks can’t get to the distribution points and our stores don’t get their inventory. Most retailers know if their J.I.T. schedule is interrupted, their shelves would empty in 3 to 5 days.
Just pretend you go to the store and notice some bare shelves. Your curiosity kicks in and you ask an employee what’s going on. “Oh our trucks can’t get here due to the ice storm and we don’t know when we’ll get more supplies! It may be two weeks or more.”
You, being a rational person decide stocking up right now would be a very good idea. That is IF there’s anything left to stock up on! As soon as word gets around, panic buying soon follows!
Past experiences show during imminent hurricanes, or major snowstorms, the stores clear out within 3 to 4 hours. Now factor in an earthquake in your region and let your imagination run.
In case you were wondering, there are no local, government warehouses stocked with emergency supplies set aside for our use during such an event. Even the food banks are dependent on donations from various sources, both public and private, but they are not equipped to provide for the needs of the general populace in an emergency. The only sure source of feeding your family is what you have on hand. If the J.I.T. infrastructure failed, how long before you are in deep trouble?
The best thing you can do is begin now by setting aside some of the items your family uses anyway. Watch the sales. “Buy one get one” or BOGO sales are great for setting aside extra groceries. One “coupon” person emailed me several months ago and let me know she saved over $8,000.00 on their grocery bill over a year’s time by “coupon-ing”, and a by-product was she accumulated a significant amount of groceries to be used in an emergency. Whichever method you choose to build your food supply, just do it! (Thanks Nike!) Before long you will have enough extra that if there indeed is an interruption in the supply chain, it will have minimal effect on you and your family.
As always send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com
Dave Robinson is an author, pastor and freelance writer. His book, “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” is available on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and other online booksellers.