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Supply Chain Shortages Require Stockpiling More Than Just Food and Toilet Paper

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

We are all feeling the impacts of supply chain hiccups. If you haven’t bought your Thanksgiving turkey, you might be out of luck, and Christmas shopping has become a lottery-like event. We are all holding our breath to see if that one gift will arrive on time. However, shortages will go beyond holiday celebrations and may involve more than food and other consumer goods as we head into 2022.

Recovering investment banker and author of The War on Small Business, Carol Roth, has been watching more significant trends that could impact the U.S. over the next several months and longer. In a recent interview, she shared her observations and gave recommendations about things Americans should consider buying and doing now to prevent problems in the future.

Most conservatives have lived by the motto “Buy guns and ammo.” With the increase in gun sales following the 2020 riots, ammunition shortages ensued. The Biden administration’s sanctions on Russian ammunition compound the scarcity created by new demand. However, there is also a shortage of copper, according to Roth. The U.S. Mint and other industries, such as electric vehicle batteries, compete with ammunition manufacturers for limited supply.

“If you see some, buy it,” Roth said. And be deliberate about looking every time you are in a store that sells it. If you go to Walmart to get some toilet paper, check the ammunition shelves too. If you have been stockpiling for a while, it is also smart to conserve it. There are laser target systems that will allow you to practice without dwindling your supply. It might be a good time to invest in one.

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Roth is also recommending that Americans buy water filtration and collection equipment. In addition to having a gallon a day per person for 30 days on hand, having the equipment to make water safe may become increasingly important. One trend she has observed over the last few years is institutional investors buying up sources. Everyone from Harvard’s Endowment to Bill Gates is in the market. They are buying land with water rights attached. About 70% of usable water is used for agriculture, so this trend could impact the food supply.

“That sets off a red flag for somebody like me who looks to see what the trends are. There has been a lot of chatter around the fact that water is going to become a more precious commodity than oil, which brings into account a lot of moral issues, ” Roth shared. “But that hasn’t stopped the investment in that arena. There has also been a lot of investment in technologies around water and companies that are doing things like desalination.” She also suggested buying a personal water purifier like LifeStraw to have on hand for each family member.

Just as pressing is how to make it safely through the winter. Roth suggests getting your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system checked now and replacing any elements that look as if they may be wearing out. The supply chain for parts is a mess, according to industry professionals she spoke with. When parts for these systems, including cars, are available, new product needs get prioritized, and repair shops get shorted.

A similar problem is occurring with major appliances. Roth suggests getting a dorm-size refrigerator to keep on hand, especially if a family member has medication that needs refrigeration. Overall she suggests purchasing alternative ways to heat and cool indoor places, such as space heaters and fans. As reported earlier this month, power outages may persist longer if the vaccine mandates continue. If you have a generator, stock up on the fuel it requires now. You may also consider purchasing a portable power unit for your communications devices. There are inexpensive solar and DC units available that you can charge to access emergency information and even use equipment like a CPAP machine if someone in your home requires one.

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If a family member requires medication for a chronic condition, talk to your doctor about increasing the supply you have on hand. Roth says her contacts in China say areas of the country are shutting down again due to COVID-19. Since China produces most of the precursors to common medications, shutdowns may impair the supply chain for drugs. There are insurance and regulatory obstacles to getting large quantities, but even getting refills at the three-week mark if allowed can help build a buffer.

Of course, having several weeks of food on hand is a routine part of emergency preparedness. If you can, put up some food. If not, some vendors will send you foodstuff prepackaged. Roth also suggests not forgetting Fido. If you have pets, keep enough pet food for a few months on hand since the food supply chain gets directed at people before pets. Some shortages in production are already getting reported, according to Roth.

Roth also suggests getting personal information in order, so it is easily accessible. Her company offers a product called Future File that can store records electronically or in hard copy that provides a roadmap for the types of documents to collect. While this is typically thought of as planning for someone’s passing, having things like the titles to your property and identifying information in one place in the event of an emergency is also important.

She also emphasizes going local when you can. Many of the supply issues we are seeing right now have to do with a small number of companies supplying a good or service. “I believe in decentralization, and I think it’s the only way to fight back against the central power and the consolidation of the economy,” Roth said. “To the extent that you can put more dollars and more support locally, you’re going to have a stronger supply chain and more options. You will also have less of a supply-demand imbalance.” She added, “Buy some seeds. Buy some soil. To the extent you can rely on yourself for certain things, that is just one less burden that you have to bear.”