Other Than Dying: Ebola Effects

ebola-effectsPeople are tense – and rightly so – about this whole Ebola deal.

The main Ebola effects people have a concern with is getting the virus, and dying a horrible death.  The thing is, the chances of contracting Ebola are miniscule.  Probably too small to measure for the average American.

But that doesn’t mean you will be immune to the effects of an outbreak of the disease, regardless of how small it might be.  Look how the media is breathlessly reporting the two secondary cases in Texas.

They’re freaking out!  But those two unprotected nurses were in physical contact with a guy that was gushing body fluids contaminated with the disease.  That’s not something I intend on doing in the near future.

Still, I don’t want to downplay the horrible geometric progression spread – one person infects two people, then those two EACH infect two more, etc. – that could happen if enough people come in contact with contaminated folks.  If we get word that third- and fourth-level infections have occurred, they’ll start using the “P” word in earnest:  Pandemic – an epidemic over a large geographic area.

Back when I was a bank executive – probably in 2006 or 2007 – the FDIC or Federal Reserve Bank (I forget which one) ran a scenario with the participation of 3,000 banks across the country.  Its purpose was to gauge the effects of a pandemic in the US, and how it would affect the banking system.

Over a 3 week period, we were sent questionnaires which gave us a set of circumstances, and asked all 3,000 banks to say how they’d respond.  The Feds would plug in all of the answers, then based upon the aggregated data, would send us another set of questions based on the new “reality” from the previous answers.

One week, we’d have to remove all employees that had a last name ending in S or K.  The next week, we might have to remove the M’s and B’s, plus run a branch on back-up power for a day because the power company couldn’t fix the lines due to lack of workers.

It messed with your head to see how things could get ugly.  Quickly.

They then started floating the idea that people would begin panicking, and would keep their kids out of school so they wouldn’t get infected.  Then schools just started shutting down on their own volition so that they weren’t acting as micro-incubators for the virus.

If the kids had to stay home, that meant mom or dad probably had to stay home as well, so all types of businesses started closing because all of the workers were calling in sick.

It was a situation that fed upon itself.  More sick folks, more panic.  Repeat.  Click-click-click fell the dominoes.

Communications Failure

The first “utility” to fail was the Internet.

As the scenario advanced, more businesses looked to have more employees telecommute – work from home and access data via Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).  Virtually every bank in the test did this.  Like a school of fish, we all moved in exactly the same direction.

Assumptions were made that other non-bank businesses would do this as well.

Schools – particularly post-secondary institutions – would move more and more towards the students telecommuting to school.

In 2009, the GAO put out this document (PDF) that summarized the effects of a pandemic on the Securities industry.  The focus is on the Internet crashing.


Restricted Travel

Other than shutting down schools to stop the spread of the disease, no other options were discussed.  The Feds don’t like to discuss this type of thing in public!

We don’t have similar restraint.

Forced And Voluntary Quarantine

I believe forced quarantines to be a real possibility.  Right now, we see authorities treading very lightly around this subject.  If you use legal force to quarantine an individual, how do you manage that?  House arrest?  If the numbers increase, do you use some sort of Ebola camp?  Is a local high school gym transformed into an Ebola ward with guards posted outside?

Remember the Dallas police officer who came in contact with the Liberian Ebola patient?  While he wasn’t legally quarantined, he also wasn’t allowed at work.  He has a child that attends a local high school, and they released this statement

Monnig [the police officer] has a child who attends The Colony High School, and Lewisville ISD released the following statement Wednesday regarding any possible Ebola fears:

“As you may have learned, a neighborhood Care Now medical facility, located on 301 West Main Street in Frisco, treated and then transported a patient with possible Ebola symptoms. At this time, this case has not been confirmed as the Ebola virus. The Denton County Health Department considers this to be low risk and has permitted the Care Now facility to reopen. The person is a resident of The Colony and has a child who attends The Colony High School. We have communicated with the Denton County Health Department. Dr. Matt Richardson, Director of Denton County Health Department, has told us that there is no reason to quarantine anyone and there is no reason to close a school.

As with any health issue, our school nurses are aware of the symptoms and protocols related to the Ebola virus. Symptoms of this virus may include fever greater than 101.5, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea and vomiting. If you have any additional questions about Ebola symptoms, please visit the Denton County Health Department at www.dentoncounty.com/health or contact your family doctor.

LISD will continue to work with the Denton County Health Department and will follow its directives. We are also working in close cooperation with the City of The Colony. The health and safety of our students and staff remain a top priority.”

Right now, they’re hunting down the 130+ people that were on an airplane with the second Ebola-confirmed nurse.  It should be interesting to see how they are handled.  If we start seeing that previously mention geometric progression spread of the disease, quarantines will become the norm for any suspected Ebola contacts.

An unintended consequence of this could be a voluntary quarantine – such as a mass refusal to use public transit – planes, buses, subways, trains.  Tightly-packed public transportation vehicles are a perfect location to promote the spread of a disease that requires physical contact to spread.  Fewer passengers will translate into a reduced number of scheduled trips, further affecting your ability to move about freely.

The same could affect any large social gathering places, such as sporting events, restaurants, theater, movies, church services, and the aforementioned schools.

Martial law

THAT is the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  If this thing spreads like wildfire – or if a government looking for an excuse has now found one – martial law could be a possibility.

I personally believe this is on the outer fringes of probability, but that’s part of what prepping is all about:  Hope for the best and prepare for the worse.

Martial law generally permits time-frame windows of “free” movement – subject to government checks.  Evening movement is usually prohibited.  That’s when most of our food and energy (gasoline) is transported on the roads to their respective retail outlets.

My guess is that in the early stages of martial law, we’d see a disruption in the supply chain.  I believe that they’d get the food supply chain fixed quickly, but maybe not the energy supply.  If you don’t have gas for the car, you can’t leave the area, which is one purpose of martial law:  Control.

How To Proceed

Communications – How will you get news and information without the Internet?  Radios, TV, newspapers.  Be sure you have batteries to run everything in the event there are power outages.

How will you communicate with your family and friends without the Internet?  Cell phones and texting services might be negatively affected like the Internet, so have a plan!

Run your computer mouse over the menu item Prep Topics, then click Communications from the drop-down menu for more ideas and solutions.

Restricted Travel – This is one of those items where being first is best.  Like during hurricane season, the family that leaves 2 days before it hits gets out much more easily than the family that waits until 2 hours before it arrives.

Everyone leaves at the same time, clogging roads, and wiping out supplies of gasoline.

Your Evacuation Plan should include various Tripwires that call you to action.  If you haven’t yet done so, update your plan to include pandemics as a reason to move to a safer location.

Everyone always second-guesses themselves – am I leaving too early? – when making a rushed judgement.  By thinking and planning about situations before you’re hip-deep in them you have the ability to set tripwires with a clear mind.

Also plan to be surprised by a sudden restricted travel order.  Be sure you have sufficient levels of food, water, medical supplies and self-defense weapons to allow you to “hunker down” if forced to do so.

Again, run your computer mouse over the menu item Prep Topics, then click Restricted Travel from the drop-down menu for more ideas and solutions.


We don’t panic.  We plan and act.

Our whole purpose for planning and prepping is to maintain our personal independence.  Don’t wait for the hammer to drop and find yourself unprepared.  Act now.



One Response to Other Than Dying: Ebola Effects

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