Friday, October 28, 2016

Preparedness and The Normalcy Bias

A few years back I was driving down a familiar highway. I was traveling back to my town from a town I had a Church assignment in. As I came down a hill I saw on the side of the road a mini-van laying on its side. Also pulled off to the side were about 4 or 5 cars that had stopped to “help”. I slowed down and carefully drove by thinking “There are plenty people there. If I stop I’ll just be adding to the chaos.” As I looked in my mirror something told me to go back. I turned around and went back. What I found was a smoldering mini-van with about 6 to 8 people standing about 35 yards away on the shoulder of the road. They were all standing there talking quietly. I walked up to them and asked if anyone had called 911? They all looked at me like they didn’t know what a phone was. I looked at a guy with a cell phone in his hands and said, “Call 911!” I then told another guy to go a little ways up the highway and find out what mile marker we were near. I then asked this big Tongan looking guy to come with me. We proceeded to get the people out and get some first aid going. Why were those 6 people completely useless until they were told to do something? It’s called Normalcy Bias. This is defined as a survival mechanism our brains are equipped with that can place us in grave danger when we’re faced with something traumatic. Simply put, it causes our brains to insist that all is okay. Everything will return to normal. Americans are really bad about this because we live in a relatively safe, and secure society. Most everyone has indoor plumbing and clean water.
Another example is from 1977 when two planes collided just above a runway in Tenerife, Spain. A man was stuck, with his wife, in a plane that was slowly being engulfed in flames. He remembered making a special note of the exits, grabbed his wife's hand, and ran towards one of them. As it happened, he didn't need to use it, since a portion of the plane had been sheared away. He jumped out, along with his wife and the few people who survived. Many more people should have made it out. Fleeing survivors ran past living, uninjured people who sat in seats literally watching for the minute it took for the flames to reach them.
This isn't unique behavior, although plane crashes provide the most dramatic examples. People seeking shelter during tornadoes and cyclones are often called back, or delayed, by people doing normal activities, who refuse to believe the emergency is happening. These people are displaying normalcy bias. About 70% of people in a disaster do it. Although movies show crowds screaming and panicking, most people move dazedly through normal activities in a crisis. This can be a good thing; researchers find that people who are in this state are docile and can be directed without chaos. They even tend to quiet and calm the 10-15% of people who freak out. But they can be a liability if you need their help. This is also hoe some people react to violence.
There are things you can do to fight this. Being trained and prepared helps.

1. Be willing to go through the painful process of acknowledging the uncertainty of our future. It’s like the grief process:
o Denial (Normalcy Bias rearing its ugly head!),
o Anger — (at politicians, circumstances, family members),
o Bargaining (“If I can just buy enough precious metals, we’ll be okay.”),
o Depression (Our children aren’t facing the same, sunny future that we did, America is changing before our eyes)
o Acceptance (I can’t do everything, but I can be proactive and do what I can.)
2. Face facts, don’t hide from them. Acknowledge your limits. Only when you face reality can you prepare for it.
3. Trust your instincts. Headlines change on a dime. Take in a much bigger picture than a single, optimistic headline or the words of a politician seeking re-election. Trust your own senses and what your gut is telling you.
4. Start where you are with what you have.
5. Fight feeling overwhelmed with lists and organization. Focus on what you will do today, this week, or this month. Little by little it will all come together.
6. Reach out to others. Start your own preparedness group. Spend time on preparedness and survival forums, as long as they don’t feed your fears. If there was ever a time for people to come together, this is it.
7. It’s better to over-prepare than to be under-prepared. Normalcy Bias assures us that everything will be okay. A few extra bottles of water is all you really need. Those ten cans of tuna will be plenty! Go ahead and stock up more than you think you’ll need to. Make plans for scenarios that may be a bit far out but still within the realm of possibility.
8. Make plans. Have an evacuation plan, and prepare for it. Have a hunker-down plan, and prepare for it. Decide ahead of time how you will face the most likely crises and communicate those plans with those who need-to-know. Write down your plans. Panic and stress have a way of erasing the logical parts of our brains.
9. Be ready to act quickly and decisively. It’s better to take action too soon than too late.
10. Take time off. Forget you ever heard of the word, “preparedness”. Go shopping. Go out to lunch. Play with the kids. Spend an hour on the phone with your best friend. Give yourself a mental break. Your family needs you to be strong. You need to take care of yourself, body, soul, and spirit.
11. Get physically fit. There is a huge connection between physical and mental fitness. Start with some sort of exercise and start today.
The opposite of fear is faith. Have faith in God. Have some faith in yourself and your family. The scripture says:
D&C 38:30 … but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.
I like to paraphrase that and turn it around to If ye have more faith, ye shall become prepared.
Become better prepared. Your family’s safety, security, and happiness is at stake. Don‘t let the normalcy bias lull you into a false sense that we are not in the last days and that things will be as a storm all around us. But we can be an island of calm preparedness. Take the first step and talk to your spouse and your family. Make a simple plan and work it. Change your plan as your needs dictate. Be proactive. Talk to your like-minded friends. Don’t go crazy and don’t go into debt. Work slowly and methodically. You will get there in time.
Semper Paratus
Check 6