Psychological Mistakes of Emergency Preparedness

Dietrich Easter

Psychological Mistakes of Emergency Preparedness (Have You Been Hoodwinked?)



Have you been caught in a psychological trap? Many people like to believe they’re prepared for an emergency. Maybe they have some gear or took a first-aid class in college. Are you prepared? Or not? This article will talk about the psychological mistakes people make when preparing for an emergency.


When people think about emergencies, they tend to overestimate their strengths and underestimate their weaknesses. This could be for the simple reason that it's generally unpleasant to think about hard times. But, unfortunately, if we don't spend time preparing for hard times, the hard times can be a lot worse.


Let's talk about how your own mind can play tricks on you.

How to Avoid Common Mental Pitfalls of Emergency Preparedness

Are you wondering about how to prepare for an emergency? Before you grab a bunch of gear and stuff it in your closet, let's make sure you're not making one of these major mistakes.


Here are several mistakes we'll cover:


1. Overestimating your training

2. Expecting others will be there to help

3. Underestimating the risks

4. Overlooking obvious dangers

5. Becoming fixated

6. It won't happen to me

7. Failing to prepare for the aftermath


Let's look at these in more depth.


Note: This article lists some common mental mistakes for emergency preparedness. This is not meant to be professional psychoanalysis.

1. Overestimating Your Training

If you've been formally trained in emergency preparedness, you might feel pretty confident. That's awesome. Just be sure you're taking an honest assessment of your skills. You'd be very surprised how easy it is to overestimate skill level.


As someone who trained new paramedics, I've seen a vast array of people prepare for emergencies. Here's a secret: some of them knew what they were doing, and some of them were totally clueless (myself included, especially as a rookie recruit).


However, one thing was always puzzling: the most clueless paramedics were almost always the most arrogant (falsely confident), and the most skilled paramedics were almost always the ones who were humble, a little bit scared, and asked a lot of questions.


I can admit, as my career in emergency services progressed, I realized that things I thought simple were actually more complex. Reality has a way of slapping us in the face.


Key takeaway: take a sober look at your emergency skills. Ask others to assess you and seek advice from experts in your field. Realize that taking a first aid class or even a paramedic course is just the beginning. Just because you've had training doesn't mean you're well trained.

2. Expecting Others Will be There to Help

If something happens, just call 911, right? You should certainly call 911 during an emergency. However, don't let this false sense of security prevent you from adequately preparing for an emergency.


Here's an industry secret: the 911 system is very strained in many areas and completely broken in others. You could easily be waiting extended times for paramedics, firefighters, or a police officer.


However, even if the 911 system is top-notch in your area, responders won't be there instantly. Furthermore, if it's something like a natural disaster, there may be no responders at all - they'll be taking care of their own families or completely overwhelmed with other calls.

3. Misunderstanding the Major Risks

There are several types of people: those that are constantly worried about doomsday scenarios, those who are obsessively worried about daily emergencies, and those that laugh at anyone concerned about either : "Are you a dooms-dayer?" they mock.


There's nothing wrong with being level-headed, but too often, we embody the extremes: either frantically worrying, or acting like nothing bad will ever happen.


Look, things like grid-down situations, EMPs, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes are all very real. The US government itself suggests that people be prepared for at least three

weeks without access to food or water. Do you have three weeks of food and water stored? That's the minimum.


Realize both big things and small things happen, and eventually, if you're blessed with long life, chances are some bad things will happen to you.

4. Overlooking Obvious (simple) Dangers

Do you know one of the things that hospitalize most elderly adults? Falls. That's right, the simple, hidden fall. Not break-ins or muggings. Falls.


One of the most common reasons people fall is failure to use some sort of handhold. But, things like rugs (tripping hazard) and stairs are also dangerous.


What's the point? Yes, it's important to think about the nuclear bombs, the super-volcanoes, and the EMPS, but it's also wise to think about the things that (statistically) are more likely to cause problems in your life.


While you're in your home, consider fall hazards. Realize that driving is a deadly activity! More people die every day from car accidents than they do wandering the streets of major cities.


Why is it that when you're in a dangerous neighborhood, you're on high alert, but when you're in your car, you're driving 90 without a seat belt (with a phone in your hand) and the music blasting? Just something to consider.


Key takeaway: Just because we're familiar with something doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. Even good dogs bite sometimes.

5. Becoming Fixated on One Thing

In addition to overlooking something small, we all also tend to become fixated on one thing. For example, perhaps you recently watched a documentary on the zombie apocalypse. Now it's all zombies, zombies, zombies.


Preparing for a zombie-like scenario may be important (maybe not); however, other disasters are even more likely. Many people become fixated on things like hurricanes or robberies, or financial collapse.


Here's the point: make sure you've checked all your flanks. You may have one area of your life fortified, but as is commonly said, a defense is only as strong as its weakest point. What's your weakest point?


In addition to becoming fixated on one disaster, it also seems like people become fixated on one means of preparation. For example, some people believe that they're totally set for any situation

because they have a firearm and a large stash of ammo. Others believe that having a year's supply of food is the answer.


Here's the thing, of course, having a firearm and having food are good ways to prepare - but they are not the only things to consider. For example, bullets are great, but will bullets provide you with a steady water supply? Food is essential, but what happens when one of you becomes sick? What will you do if you encounter a medical emergency? Do you have medical supplies and training?


Further still, what will you do if there's a fire in your home, and it burns your food supply and your ammunition? After all, the definition of a disaster is a disaster.


This can all spiral down a rabbit hole. The main thing is this: don't become fixated on one disaster, and don't become fixated on one means of preparation. Just like investing, you need to diversify your emergency preparedness.

6. It Won't Happen to Me

Just scratch this ridiculous idea out of your mind. Anyone who silently believes that bad things won't happen is not facing reality. We won't go out of our way to create fear because too much fear is counterproductive, but let's just say we need only look around at our own lives and the lives of our families to realize bad things can and will happen.


This doesn't mean we should shake in fear. However, it means people should consider the real risks in the world. And, as morbid as it sounds, most people don't escape this life alive.


Now, let's talk about being prepared for the aftermath.

7. Being Prepared After the Crisis

Even though we may prepare for a crisis, we should realize that just because we are prepared doesn't mean bad things won't happen. Friends and family could become injured, and that's something we should also prepare for.


Consider researching how to help someone grieve. Certain things are more helpful than others. Also, we should realize the mental toll a crisis can have on people. If you look at any emergency response organization, such as FEMA, there are steps to handle the aftermath of a crisis, including chaplains and critical stress debriefings - a meeting where those involved in a disaster talk about what happened.


Now, let's go over our key takeaways.

Key Takeaway on the Psychological Mistakes of Emergency Preparedness

Unfortunately, when planning for emergencies, our emotions are not our friends. Some folks are worried about what people think of them and don't want to be labeled "fanatics" or "preppers." Just like you have insurance for your car or home, you should prepare for emergencies - there's nothing fanatical about it.


Others become fixated on one emergency, leaving themselves open to other disasters. What's the best approach? Balance. Try to take a sober, calculated approach to disaster preparedness. Watch out for the psychological traps that could cause more harm than good.

To learn about preparing for medical emergencies, check out this article on how to set up an IFAK (individual first aid kit).