Your most important tool in an emergency crisis is your brain –is yours prepped?

According to a 2004 Harris Poll, 96 percent of Americans feel it is important to prepare for emergencies, but less than 20 percent describe themselves as totally prepared. It is an odd disconnect when you think about it, and makes you wonder why people don’t prepare more if they believe it is so important. Perhaps it’s because no matter how much you do prepare for emergencies, the unpredictable nature of an emergency means that you can never be 100% prepared. Therefore, many people would like to avoid the feeling of futility that comes with trying to fight randomness. But you can and should try as much as possible, especially when it comes to mental preparedness.

Emergency preparedness can help you physically if there is ever an emergency (see the newsletter for more details on the kits and materials you should invest in), but there are mental and emotional elements as well. By thinking through disaster scenarios and what you would need in each, you are training your brain ahead of time how to react in those scenarios. If you trace out an escape route in your mind you are, in a sense, practicing that route. Another example is: let’s say your stove catches on fire. If you haven’t really thought through the scenario or a house fire, your thoughts may look something like this:

“My stove is on fire, what do I do?”

“Do I have a fire extinguisher?”

“Where is my fire extinguisher?”

“Once I found my extinguisher, how do I use it?”

By this point of frantic panic, the fire may have spread and you are up a creek with no paddle. If you had prepped and mentally or physically practiced for a fire, however, these thoughts wouldn’t need to slow you down and it would be more of an instinct of “event happens-here’s how I react to it.” You’d grab the fire extinguisher from where you put it and use it quickly. The less panic in an emergency, the less damage is done. “Everybody hates the idea that we practice for emergency events. Fire drills… ugh. But it’s practice, and practice helps you understand what to do or how to react when you don’t have a lot of time,” said Jerzell Black, Operation Coordinator, CDC Office of Safety, Security, and Asset Management in his blog post. “Not only can practice save your life, but if you know how to save yourself, emergency responders on the scene can use their time and effort to save others. You’re one less person who needs saving, and that saves lives.”

You can’t think through every emergency situation (and it probably isn’t healthy to dwell on every bad situation either), but preparing yourself mentally and physically for certain emergencies can help you adapt those skills and resources for the ones you didn’t think of. “Remember, if you depend on everyone else to take care of you, you’re leaving the most important person out,” said Black, “Don’t wait to make a plan. Know yourself, know your situation, and be prepared to save your own life.”

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