Making Better Disaster Decision Makers -

Making Better Disaster Decision Makers

A 72 hour supply kit, in itself, probably isn’t going to save your life. If that was all it took to save lives in a disaster we could take the money being spent each year at the local, state and federal level promoting emergency preparedness and buy a kit for every home in America. But that wouldn’t have the same effect. It’s the internal resources that you and your family members develop by putting together a 72 hour kit that saves lives and reduces property damage in a disaster.

A disaster isn’t a passive experience. People impacted by disasters don’t have the luxury of sitting quietly in their homes and businesses waiting for first responders to arrive on the scene and make things safe again. They have to make decisions, and they have to make them under stressful and emotionally-charged conditions, with limited information and little time for consideration. Should I evacuate? Should I go into a flooded basement and turn off the power? How will I heat my home during a power outage?

So what do you really get with a 72 hour emergency kit? You get the comfort of being able to stay in your home when you might otherwise have to go to an emergency shelter, and the confidence that comes when you have what you need in a disaster. These things reduce stress and make you more able to make good decisions in a disaster.

The most valuable thing you get with an emergency kit, however, is the understandingof how a disaster will affect you and your family, specifically. Talking through questions like, “What won’t we have if the power goes out?” or “What about our pets?” helps you build a plan, and an emergency supply kit, that fits your family’s needs. It gives you a mental framework to interpret what you see and hear in an emergency.

Talking though disaster does something else. It helps us overcome our normalcy bias—our belief that bad things don’t happen to us, or that if something does happen we’ll be able to handle it without a problem. Normalcy bias is our belief that the car will always stop when we hit the brakes, that the air around us will always be breathable, and that we will always be safe inside our homes. It’s—well, normal, but it keeps from preparing for emergencies, and from recognizing the signs of emergencies when they happen.

We don’t have to abandon our normalcy bias, but we need to be aware that it exists. We need to accept that we live with risk. If we accept that something may actually happenwe are more likely to correctly interpret the warnings—both those issued by authorities and those given by our environment.

Disasters change things: in the environment around us; in the resources that are available to us; and in our own bodies. In an emergency, adrenaline and other hormones are released into the bloodstream: muscles tense, breathing changes, heart rate increases, and blood sugar rises. Our bodies automatically prepare to physically react to the threat, not to think things through calmly. Knowing what to do in a disaster, because you’ve thought it through in advance, can help calm those reactions and keep your head clear. Clear heads make better disaster decisions and better disaster decisions make better disaster outcomes.

So talk to your family now about what could happen in a disaster. Think through how your household, specifically, could be impacted. Do you have pets, small children, or family members who rely on prescriptions or have other special needs? Think about all of the things that you rely on electricity for, and how long you can go without those things.Thinking about disaster can be difficult, but it can be a positive experience. When you know, you can be ready; and being ready is powerful.

Check out for an emergency preparedness program that is easy and inexpensive, or find another emergency preparedness program that works for you.

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