I heard a quote the other day that I really liked: "Experience is the hardest teacher: first comes the test, then the lesson." Just because I like the quote, however, doesn't mean that I like learning from experience when the lessons are difficult--in fact, in those cases I would prefer to learn things "secondhand" so to speak, and learn from other peoples' experience instead. That doesn't necessarily mean that other peoples' experiences had to be bad--I just mean, if someone has more knowledge and experience than I do, it would be wise of me to listen to what they have to say and factor it into my own plans to hopefully have a less difficult lesson myself. This can apply for lessons that are life-saving, as well as those that just make our lives easier.
Before I had children that were old enough to get out of the door by themselves, I heard what happened to a family in our area. One day, while the father was changing a diaper on the baby, an older child, who was not that much older, walked out the door and into the street, which happens to be one of the busiest streets around here. A bus driver saw the child and picked him/her up. When authorities returned the child to the parents, they told them that they needed to get a chain on the door to avoid a repeat performance of the incident.
I may have forgotten some of the exact details of this story, but I remembered the lesson involved, and there was some kind of lock on the upper part of our doors (and there still is, except for a door we recently replaced... gotta get that fixed) before this kind of thing could ever become an issue. Having seen the street mentioned, it still horrifies me that the child was out on it, and I can only imagine the feelings of the parent, when, after the short amount of time it takes to change a diaper, the toddler was nowhere to be found until the authorities showed up. I don't know if my own children would ever do that--but I don't want to find out. The thing is, I think that it's human nature to read about something or see it on TV and think that the kind of emergency that we're reading/hearing about will never happen to us. That may be so--maybe it never will. Then again, maybe it will. Are we willing to take the chance that it won't, and not do all that we can to be prepared?
There is (ahh, you knew this was coming) the long-term preparation for disaster that we can make by getting our houses in order by storing food/water/other necessities. Then there are things that we can learn and pick up from other peoples' experiences if we are looking to learn and are paying attention. I like a recent post over at iPrepared, where it cites stories of people who in one case were brilliant and bought enough water to line their dining room, and in another case were brilliant and filled up every container they could with water so that they would have enough to make waiting out and cleaning up after Hurricane Ike easier. I love that idea--I have some water stored, but I don't usually sit around with every possible container in my house filled with water. If I had to stay in place in a situation where water would be cut off and/or undrinkable, and I had a little advance warning, I would now think to fill up everything I could with water. If you have small children, you would have to take that into account, so you wouldn't make your house a dangerous place to be with water sitting around where it could be a hazard, but if you are thinking ahead, a well thought-out plan could eliminate problems with that as well. There is so much to learn from the experiences of other people, if we are paying attention.
Then there are some people who are kind enough to share their experience and knowledge without us having to go looking. In my last post I pointed out that soon we will have a wood stove insert in our house. I was amazed by the comments that people left, full of detailed and helpful information that I needed to know. Quite frankly, it made me a little nervous to find out how much I have to learn, and gave me a lot more questions to ask the stove representative before I start using it. I am very grateful that people took the time to write in and share their knowledge and experience, from how much wood they have needed, (now I hope that we can afford to feed the thing :) and ways that they have stored it, to advice on how to keep it from being hazardous to the family (read: avoiding a chimney fire) by making sure that you keep it properly maintained. Check out the comments on that post. There is a lot of useful information.
Then there are people who are willing to share their experiences/knowledge in blogs. On a recent poll that I put up, one issue that people had was finding space in which to put their food storage. In looking around at blogs that I read, I found an example of storing in plain sight over at Stealth Survival, and an example of some things to do to add food storage space at Safely Gathered In. The information is out there, and even in cases where relying solely on your own experience to be your "teacher" wouldn't be that painful, why reinvent the wheel when there are others willing to share what they've learned?
I, for one, am grateful that a lot of people don't sit by and figure that because they had the "hardest teacher" everyone else should have to go through the same things as well. Learning from other people is a great way to get more prepared for emergencies, to avoid emergencies, and to survive emergencies. I hope to keep learning, and better yet, apply what I've learned, should it be necessary. In this case, you gotta love "hand-me-downs".... :)