One of the major tenets of emergency preparedness is that your emergency plan has been so well-developed and so thoroughly practiced that it is almost second nature – like an instinctive reaction. We cannot afford to be improvising a plan during the event. That would be like learning to play the violin during your first major performance.
Reaction time is especially important when we talk about earthquakes. There is no way to accurately predict when the next one will hit. They happen so fast that if we do not react immediately then we may be doomed.
Whether you have a plan or not, most assuredly survival instinct WILL take over. When it does, if there is no plan or the one you have has not been thoroughly internalized through practice, there will not be enough options in place for the mind to automatically react. When there are no answers in place for the question “what do I do now?” the fight-or-flight instinct becomes the instinct to “freeze.” It is at that point that one suddenly realizes they are UN-prepared and panic sets in. This is why it is so important to have that well-practiced and choreographed plan in place.
Below are tips for what I call the7 Major Domains of Earthquake Preparedness Planning:
1. Practice and Repetition: The key to being safe is that as soon as the ground begins to shake, you should find yourself reacting from the plan as if by instincts.
2. Everybody Must Participate: Everybody in your office or home should know your emergency plan for an earthquake and their role in it.
3. Everyone Has A Job, Even Children: In your office or within your family, assign duties that everybody must perform during earthquakes. This keeps everyone engaged in the planning process and gives them a responsibility as part of the team.
4. Design Your Plan To Fit Your Surroundings: If you are living or working near a fault-line or earthquake-prone region, you must know your home and workplace well enough that you can factor its strengths and limitations into your plan.
5. Locate Your Safe Places: Knowing where to go and what structures to use during an earthquake may save your life. A good plan also includes identification of a meeting place for your colleagues and/or family members where all of you can come together to check in after the event.
6. Have Emergency Grab-n-Go Bags: You must have a number of emergency kits ready in the office or at home. These kits must contain the bare essentials required for life during emergencies such as food, flashlights, and first aid.
7. Plan For The Aftermath Of The Event: Many times not knowing what to do after a natural disaster of any kind is worse than the event itself, especially if chaos is allowed to rule the day.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that people revert to their primal fight-or-flight instincts during and after a major disaster. When survival instincts take over there are major changes in the mind and body. Psychological and physiological changes occur. For example internal systems shut down (such as digestion) so the energy can be freed up to react quickly and with as much power as necessary to overcome the threat.
Psychologically, taking time for “thinking things through” and normal problem-solving activities all but shut down in the peak of an emergency – there is little or no time for that! The instinctive, subconscious mind literally takes over and we just react, sometimes with lightening speed or super-human strength. This is why having a plan, practicing it, and “working it into the muscle” with repetitive practice is so important. Stay tuned for more information on these issues in future articles and posts.
Don Carter is Co-founder and CEO of DTC LifeTools which is a Midwestern family owned company that provides emergency preparedness resources, tools, and education. DTC LifeTools is known for their unique car escape tools, solar emergency lights, tire pressure gauge, emergency crank radio, and quality customer service. A masters-level psychotherapist, Don also maintains an emergency preparedness blog to help people prepare for many types of disasters and emergencies.