There are two kinds of people when it comes to disaster preparedness.

1) I have a generator, food for a month, water purification tablets, candles, solar-powered radios, flint, a full medical kit and classic board games; we will sit in our house playing Clue until order is restored.

2) I have a baseball bat and a map to the first guy’s house.

Well, there’s a third. There’s Most People, whose disaster plans are rather sketchy. If we lose power for a week, well, you start by eating the ice cream before it melts, and then it’s, uh, soup and Slim Jims until everything comes back on again. Any zombies? No? OK, then we’re good.

You may think there’s no need to think about disaster prep, because we’re getting past tornado season, and there are no Snownados. Such a thing would be incredible to behold — it’s a rare albino twister! — but many things can cut the juice or force an evac, and you don’t want to be one of those people who stabs the dark screen of an ATM asking, “WHY NO GREEN FOOD COUPON COME OUT?” while the more motivated elements of society strip the shelves of Spam and Hamm’s.

There was a flu panic a few years ago. Remember? It didn’t turn bad, but for a while people were nervous. All the medical facemasks disappeared from the stores. Remember the Rice Shortage Rumor Crisis of 2008? People were wheeling out 30-pound bags from Costco like sandbags after the levee broke, just in case. If you don’t exercise a little prep, the people who exercise a little more will have snapped up everything before you get to the store. Your partner will say “Did you get candles? Did they have any candles?” and you’ll say “No, but they had lots of these plug-in air fresheners, which last twice as long. Look, Mountain Spring scent!”

To keep you from dying or rioting, Minneapolis had its annual Prepare Fair at the IDS Center last Wednesday. A dozen or so tables with advice and tools for surviving Bad Unspecified Things, and helping families make plans so no one’s running around screaming into dead cellphones. For real preppers, it’s a laugh — where are the 32-gallon drums of powdered mashed potatoes? The electrified perimeter fence? Oh look, a keychain with a tiny LED flashlight, that’ll come in handy when I have to gut a deer during a solar eclipse. C’mon, man.

True. But if your prep consists of “There’s an old Snickers bar in the glove compartment” then it was quite useful. You could learn about what goes into your bug-out bag, which is a bag you grab when someone in Authority shows up and says “You know that chlorine plant down the road? You hear a big bang just a while ago? Yeah, about that.”

You should fill it up and keep it near your front door, but it lacks a few items, like “a dense, thick book.” You’re going to be sitting on a cot in a school gym for a while it’s not like anyone is going to walk by with a clipboard and say “OK, Netflix night! Any preferences or are we just in a mood for potpourri?”

One booth touted the usefulness of Ham Radio, and some very nice people explained its ease of use and dependability when the cell towers are overloaded or toppled, and the Internet is down. It could be a temporary replacement for Facebook. “Hello, this is KQ0394 in Brainerd, and I made some brownies. Is there anyone out there who could like this? Over.”

Of course, if a ghastly flu-plague devastates the planet, the only thing you’ll get at the end is some lunatic in Motley singing “99 Bottles of Beer On the Wall” and yelling scripture, so there’s that.

Among the freebies: a whistle, which you can use to alert people in an emergency, so they can come over and say “Stop blowing that thing! It’s annoying!” A wristband that contains a small flash drive on which you can store your important documents, in case you have to prove that you live someplace under restrictions. (I have uploaded mine with altered driver’s licenses for much of Minnetonka, because those would be great places to sit out the troubles.)

One booth handed out a free pocket thermometer, which just made you realize Amazon Prime probably won’t swing by with some antibiotics. What would you do if there was a medical emergency? Well, they gave away a book about how to treat sick people when there’s no hospital, and I was relieved to find that the last 10 pages weren’t just pictures of people putting pillows over patients’ faces. If that sounds dark, well, that’s the underlying message here, despite the smiles and the helpful people. It’s like a festival promoting Things You Hope You’ll Never Need to Have or Know.

Like how to keep someone from choking you, for example. There were two instructors on hand to help you deal with things like hands around your throat. They taught Krav Maga, an Israeli technique designed to get you out of trouble and allow you to run while your assailant is doubled over crying BY NODE! YOU BROKE BY NODE! I felt so empowered afterward I pinned a few twenties to my sweater and walked up and down the Mall, but no one took the bait.

Anyway, you hope it never comes to that. No power. No water. No phone. Your neighbor’s hands around your throat as he shouts GIVE ME THE JERKY AND IT’LL STOP. You like to think civilization is a bit more resilient. Minnesota Nice would come to the fore. Your neighbor would bring over the chairs he borrowed for that party and chitchat about things.

And then he’d choke you.

 

jlileks@startribune.com 612-673-7858