OPINION – The time I spent living in the Midwest left me keenly aware of how unpredictable nature can be.
In nearly 30 years, I haven’t stopped paying attention to the skies. Intense thunderstorms and sporadic tornado sirens will do that a person.
Last week when a massive line of storms stretched from Texas all the way up into Nebraska, forecasters were fearing the worst. Long before the storm watches and severe weather warnings were being issued, authorities were cautioning residents of Tornado Alley to be prepared.
This better-safe-than-sorry approach sparked a surprising amount of criticism from some who felt that it amounted to scaremongering.
It’s not hard to sympathize with officials who are sincerely trying to minimize the human costs that can accompany dangerous weather systems.
Twice in the span of 15 years, residents of Moore, Oklahoma, experienced being on the receiving end of monster F5 tornadoes. Raising awareness and giving people time to prepare for such storms makes sense, even if the storms fail to materialize.
Utah residents just experienced a similar official awareness and preparedness effort with “Great Utah Shake Out” two weeks ago. More than a million people in the state participated in earthquake awareness drills and activities.
Geologists have been saying for some time that several faults throughout the state are due for an earthquake.
Of course, when they say that a heavy shaker is “imminent,” they mean sometime within the next 50 years.
At what point are the warnings too much? Are the authorities “crying wolf”?
Unlike the gratuitous terror alerts that followed 9/11, it’s no exaggeration to state that people living within Tornado Alley or along an earthquake fault are genuinely at higher risk.
Is it the responsibility of government to persuade us to be prepared, or is personal preparedness something we should already be doing for ourselves?
It shouldn’t take an official drill or declaration of emergency to motivate us to take responsibility for our own well-being.
Simple preparedness steps can make a world of difference when dealing with a potential disaster, whether it’s natural or man-made.
The problem is that so few people currently seem willing to take on this responsibility.
Having an emergency supply of food and water, a well-rounded 72-hour kit and alternative means of cooking, heating and providing light are worth having. These are items that would prove handy for run-of-the-mill emergencies such as a power outage or even a job loss.
But physical items alone aren’t enough to count as being truly prepared.
The most difficult hurdle to get over is the mental one that placates us into believing that nothing is going to happen. This is what leads to fatal bouts of normalcy bias in which people simply cannot accept that something bad is happening even as it happens.
Three simple rules are what tend to separate those who are part of the solution from those who tend to become part of the problem.
The first rule is that you must possess the ability to accept the fact that something bad is actually happening.
The second is that you must have a plan to follow. It needn’t be perfect or even complete; it simply must be in your head before the bad thing happens.
The third rule is that you must be willing to act upon your plan. Immediacy of action is often the deciding factor between victims and survivors when disaster strikes.
None of these rules requires that a person live in constant fear or paranoia in order to be prepared.
Truth be told, a person who has worked through various emergency scenarios with family members and put aside a reserve of needed supplies will experience greater peace of mind than those who do not.
It’s essential to include all members of the household in these plans.
Once our preparations are in place and our contingency plans have been rehearsed and tested for oversights, we don’t have to be afraid. Unexpected events may still arise, but our ability to work through them has been greatly increased.
The only urgency anyone should feel in this regard is to work on their preparedness now rather than later. Being able to provide for yourself for even three days is preferable to being entirely reliant upon the goodness of strangers.
If you haven’t given serious thought to how you’d respond to various emergency scenarios, consider doing it while you’re not under life or death pressure.
There will never be a perfect time to get perfectly prepared, so why not take action now and reap the peace of mind that follows?
It’s far better to have our preps in place months or even years too soon than to be one second too late.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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