When a tornado, flooding or an earthquake wreaks havoc in an area, the experience is usually terrible for the people caught up in the crisis. However, within a few hours the local emergency services (like police and paramedics) show up from surrounding areas, the people who are injured and/or needing shelter get assistance and then the only thing left to do is clean up & rebuild the area. That is a temporary crisis.
A “Long Emergency” is not temporary; it is a major wide-spread crisis which has the potential to drag on for months or even years without any relief. There are several ways a Long Emergency could occur, such as a major pandemic, X-class solar flare or a collapse of the world-wide financial system.
Over the course of many decades, countless supply chains have been created around the world, which provide food, clean water, electricity, clothing, fuel and other essential needs for the billions of people on our planet. The cargo ships, freight trains, airplanes, power plants and similar methods of satisfying supply & demand are operated by countless corporations, small businesses and governments. Various currencies and markets allow this commerce to happen smoothly through an endless amount of agreements and legal obligations. These financial markets, institutions and instruments are deeply interwoven into a massive world-wide structure which is generally referred to as the financial system. Unfortunately, the financial system has become burdened by trillions of dollars in debt, weighing it down until there was a serious risk of collapse. Due to the fact that the financial system facilitates the operations of essentially every bank, corporation, small business, government and the intricate web of countless supply chains, a collapse of the financial system could bring everything it supports to a slow, grinding halt. This creates such a destructive mess that it could take years or even decades to rebuild. Meanwhile, millions or even billions of human beings no longer have the web of reliable supply chains to fulfill their needs, many businesses cease to function and governments struggle to remain operational.
An X-class solar flare is created by our sun, energizing our planet's atmosphere in a way that dumps far too much energy into long metallic power-lines. While the flare is fairly harmless to humans and unplugged electronic devices, the excessive amounts of energy in power grids can overload and even burn out many key components of a grid, as well as electronic devices which are still connected to it (plugged in). Destruction of the power grid can result in a situation similar to a financial collapse, since businesses, transportation systems, financial markets and other parts of the world's supply chains depend on power grids in order to function and communicate. In July of 2012, our planet came very close to having this exact scenario happen, which experts estimate could have caused over 2 trillion dollars worth of damage across the world.
Another possibility which could trigger a Long Emergency is a pandemic, which is a somewhat common occurrence throughout history. It is estimated that during a relatively recent major pandemic (the Spanish flu of 1918) as many as 100 million people were estimated to have been killed. Disease experts believe that another pandemic is not just a possibility; it is an active threat which they are working to prevent. During a pandemic, the global economy begins to suffer as valuable workers are either lost to the disease or so many people become concerned about getting the disease that they don't want to take the risk of leaving their homes. Businesses large and small see their revenue dry up, essential workers are absent and many companies are forced to shut down. This leads to a major decline of the world economy into a depression severe enough to threaten the fragile financial system. This could result in a financial/economic collapse as well as a major drop in the world's supply of skilled and unskilled labor.
Regardless of the way a Long Emergency scenario unfolds, this event causes such disruption that eventually some governments may be forced to shut down partially or completely and local police & military may become unable to provide adequate protection for the population. A Long Emergency has the potential to spiral down into dangerously low food supplies and disruptions of crucial services (such as electricity & potable water).
This can result in break-downs in the social order and lawless behavior as many people become increasingly desperate when the supply chains they previously relied on begin to fail. It may be possible that some people find at least a meager access to food and supplies, but with billions of people on our planet, it is inevitable that some will not find enough of the things they need to survive. Those who have any food, supplies or items of value will naturally hope that it will be enough to sustain them until "everything is fixed", not realizing that the intricate web of supply & demand which stretched around the world might not be repaired for many years.
If the global economy is not able to supply a person with their essential needs over the long term, they must find new ways to have their needs fulfilled. They must create new systems which will provide them with food, clean water and other essential supplies. It is also imperative to have access to medical care and to have security from outside threats. It is important to have new machines and devices manufactured when the ones they are using begin to get old and worn out. In addition, the establishment of trade brings more stability to the area, as business and commerce encourage people to work together in a cooperative manner. A Long Emergency may be the end of an old way of life but life has the ability to adapt and change into a new form.
The Long Emergency Alliance Plan (L.E.A.P.) is a system of creating alliances with other individuals for the purpose of working together in order to improve their chances of survival. This is accomplished by each person focusing on their own survival needs and how to overcome the challenge of getting these things. A need might involve creating a reliable supply of clean water, improving food storage or increasing their home's safety. If they are unable to complete one of these projects on their own, they find fair & equitable ways to work with other people on these projects (through barter & trade) so that all of the participants benefit from a project's completion. This establishes an organization in which the members are working toward mutually-beneficial goals, exchanging goods and services and gaining more self-reliance. It helps to maintain equality between the group members and naturally encourages everyone participating to offer their best skills and talents to the other members of the group. This system accomplishes all of these benefits by creating a micro-economy as new supply chains are established between trusted allies on the local level, to replace the damaged global economy they once relied on so heavily for their needs.