Any preparations you’ve made for your safety and protection — whether physical skills, gear and equipment, or storage commodities — need to be maintained to be useful. There is a cost to maintenance, and it’s one we often ignore in our zeal to always acquire more.
That cost may affect your ability to respond efficiently and sufficiently to a challenge.
In my latest book, Prepping For Life, I spend some time on the idea of maintenance, which is keeping your skills and equipment in a “ready to use” condition.
If we’re talking about unarmed self defense skills, it means occasionally finding someone to spar with; for defensive shooting skills, it means getting to the range and practicing realistically. (The guns you use in that practice, in turn always need cleaning and a constant supply of ammunition.) For equipment, it might mean changing the oil or a regular test run. For stored foods and medical items, it means rotation, use, and every so often disposal and replacement. Personal relationships, too, need attention and nurturing.
Everything in your life needs maintenance, including your preparedness, and the more important any given item is to your safety and security the more vital its maintenance becomes. A generator that you won’t run regularly, and whose carburetor plugs up as a consequence, doesn’t do you much good when the lights go out. A tourniquet you can’t remember how to use might not save your life or the life of someone else when it’s really needed. Shooting skills which have deteriorated might not be up to the challenge when you’re confronted with evil.
If you have a “bugout” retreat, your maintenance costs double or triple!
You might be surprised to discover that there are a lot of people who, instead of dedicating some time and effort to maintaining what they have, just go out and get more. Their pile of things needing attention gets bigger and bigger, and the stuff at the bottom starts to deteriorate.
I frequently see this in my defensive firearms workshops. I’ve run into many students who take multiple training courses every year, but their skills often aren’t as high as their educational experience would suggest. They’re so busy filling their free time with new classes that they never seem to get to the range to practice the skills they were taught in their previous classes!
As I’ve already mentioned, time is a huge maintenance cost. We all have lives to live, and our preparedness efforts have to be sandwiched between work, kid’s activities, dentist appointments, social and religious obligations, volunteer activities, and sleep. Finding the time to practice your defensive shooting skills or your empty-hand defense skills can be tough.
This stuff all costs money, too. Range time and ammunition aren’t usually free, nor is time on the mats at your local martial arts academy. Spare parts for equipment don’t grow on trees, and even the trees you’ve planted to supplement your diet cost money. Guard dogs need food and fencing, and I don’t often find stores giving that stuff away. On a tight budget it’s easy to put off things when every day seems to bring a new expense.
In some cases the impediment to maintenance is a lack of suitable facilities. For instance, many people who have defensive firearms don’t have a nearby range where they can practice realistic skills. Lack of tools, or of a working space, might make a high-maintenance vehicle or other motorized equipment difficult to service or repair.
Even if you do have the time, money, and space, do you have the energy to devote to regular maintenance activities? Just earning a living takes a lot out of your energy reserves, and every demand on your time is also a demand on your energy. Throw in the occasional sick day and it’s easy to say “oh, I’ll get to that next week-month-quarter-year”.
It’s all enough to discourage you from doing anything, but it doesn’t need to be that way. With a little forethought you can prepare and maintain that preparation as well.
Prepare — to maintain
My suggestion is this: Before you acquire any object or develop any skill, ask yourself “am I committed to maintaining this properly?” Think about the time, effort, and money that goes into keeping that thing ready for immediate use.
If it’s a skill, how often will you practice that skill? More importantly, how often will you take the trouble to practice that skill under conditions similar to how it will be used? If it’s a physical item, what’s required to keep it operational? What parts need to be replaced on a regular basis?
Does the item have an expiration date? How long past the date can it be safely used, and what does it cost to replace when it goes well past that date? Finally, when does it wear out to the point that it’s no longer useful?
All of these things need to be considered in your planning. Basic shooting skills which can be practiced regularly on your local indoor range may, for instance, be better than “high-speed” skills which can’t or won’t. (They’re also likely to have a wider range of application.)
Before you succumb to the consumerist tendency to always get “more”, look at the price tag — and at the price tag you can’t see. Think ahead and consider what it will cost you to maintain it in a usable condition. Look not just at your immediate budget, but think about what your budget will allow a year from now for the inevitable maintenance.
If you don’t have the ongoing resources, consider alternatives: a simpler skill, a less complicated device, or perhaps pooling resources with someone else who will share the maintenance (and benefits) with you.
Dedicate yourself to maintaining what you have, and only add things to your preparations when you’re able to take proper care of them. A minimalist approach might actually leave you more protected in the long run!
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