When emergencies happen -- and they do -- you want to make sure that you and your family emerge unscathed. How you fare when disaster strikes will largely depend on your knowledge and preparation beforehand. Whatever you do, don’t fall victim to these 8 common mistakes made in an emergency situation.
MISTAKE #1 - NOT HAVING AN EMERGENCY KIT
If there were a textbook definition for what it means to be unprepared for an emergency, it would probably say “not having an emergency kit.” Stashing away a kit containing the most important tools and items that humans need following a disaster will give you a fighting chance at navigating the dangerous days -- or even weeks -- ahead. FEMA and the CDC agree that procrastination is not an excuse: taking a few moments to purchase a survival kit can absolutely mean the difference between relief and tragedy when a scary day arrives.
MISTAKE #2 - NOT HAVING AN EMERGENCY PLAN
Along with a well-made emergency kit, you and your family need a predetermined plan of action for what to do in an emergency. This can mean establishing a leader who organizes and directs the others (obviously, the leader should be the most calm and knowledgeable person possible). It can also mean picking a meeting place if you get separated, discussions about how to avoid panicking, survival techniques, and evacuation procedures. The more you take the time to establish these things, the more ingrained they’ll be when everyone involved needs to act while under intense pressure.
MISTAKE #3 - NOT HAVING WATER (& FOOD) STORED
Yes, it’s important to have some non-perishable food stored in order to stay comfortable in the hours or days after a major emergency until help arrives. However, it’s even more critical to have an ample cache of bottled water on hand that is exclusively for the event of an emergency. Humans need a lot of clean, safe water in order to stay alive, and we can go without food a lot longer than without hydration. When deciding how much to store, keep in mind that people who have been through a frightening ordeal are likely to be thirstier and even more in need of replenishing hydration levels.
MISTAKE #4 - NOT STAYING CALM
Another common mistake made during major disasters is to give in to panic, anxiety, and fear. While these emotions can be helpful to let our body know that we’re in danger and need to act decisively and carefully, they can also be intoxicating. By that, we mean that they can cause you to freeze and only focus on the emotions’ powerful effect, hamstringing you from taking the bold steps often required to keep yourself or your loved ones safe. You need to be ready to push aside panic for the moment so that you can take right actions. There will be enough time to let yourself digest the experience later.
MISTAKE #5 - NOT LISTENING TO FIRST RESPONDERS
We’re lucky to live in a society where there is a massive infrastructure in place to help citizens and cities in the aftermath of a major emergency situation. These relief and rescue efforts are headed by knowledgeable, competent first responders who are executing part of a larger plan to keep you and your neighborhood as safe as possible. As such, it’s incredibly important to listen to their instructions: if they tell you to evacuate, do it immediately. If they tell you to shelter in place, do not leave. These are the two most common instructions you’ll receive, and to ignore them is to do so at your own peril.
MISTAKE #6 - NOT LOOKING FOR INFORMATION FROM MEDIA SOURCES
Love or hate our always-connected smartphone age, it certainly does come with one advantage. In the event of a disaster, information will be widely and instantaneously disseminated across all media. While you should vet your sources carefully and stick to major mainstream media outlets for important details, checking social media to compare notes with others in your area can be helpful in forming a complete picture of the situation as well.
MISTAKE #7 - NOT EDUCATING YOURSELF ON SPECIFIC DISASTER CONCERNS
Earthquakes, floods, storms, avalanches, blizzards, chemical contamination, terrorist attacks: there are a lot of different threats out there that can change our lives in an instant should they, unfortunately, visit our lives. But, by staying as informed on the most relevant survival techniques for your particular region, you can give yourself a better chance at living through even the worst of situations. If you live in an earthquake-prone state like California, you should have a solid understanding of basic earthquake science and preparedness. If you live in Florida, you should be well-versed in hurricane warnings and procedures. Find out what your area is most susceptible to, and arm yourself with knowledge about how to survive that specific threat.
MISTAKE #8 - THINKING THAT EMERGENCIES ONLY HAPPEN TO OTHER PEOPLE
Finally, one of the saddest and most common mistakes people make in regards to emergencies is to assume that it will never happen to them. Unfortunately, everyone tends to walk around in a day-to-day bubble that provides the illusion of safety. Nature is often violent (and so are humans who act with the intention of harming others). Disaster has a way of coming when you least expect it, turning your whole world upside-down. Yet, that doesn’t mean you have to simply be a powerless victim. By understanding that emergencies are a natural part of life on this planet, you can take the prudent steps to prepare yourself to deal with them head-on… instead of pretending that they only happen to other people.