Why Do We Procrastinate About Disaster Preparedness ?

Procrastinate - What qre you waiting for?

Twelve hours left to go with National Preparedness Month and I’m still procrastinating. Procrastination actually works for me in a way because it allows me to quietly simmer atop a heating stove from some looming deadline or other.   Once the deadline gets hot enough, I spring into action with a load of needless stress and urgency. I’m a neighborhood disaster coordinator, a retired emergency medical services officer, and a paramedic instructor. You’d think I’d be all over preparedness month. But here I am, sipping my coffee and blogging my way to readiness.

In my defense, one of the problems with disasters that visit my part of the world is that they tend to occur without deadlines. On the west coast of the U.S., we don’t have hurricane warnings or tornado alerts. We have articles, newscasts, and townhalls alluding to the coming wildfire or the inevitable earthquake. For some folks, (including my co-host Janelle ) these reminders are enough to motivate action. For many though, vague threats don’t drive us past our procrastination into preparedness. Why is that ?

Some psychologists pin the blame for preparedness procrastination on uncertainty. More on that in the Psychology Today article here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dont-delay/201405/preparedness-procrastination   The more uncertain we are about the proximity of a threat, the less we feel inclined to take specific action to mitigate or prepare for it. So, uncertainty morphs into a kind of complacency where other threats- big and small, can crowd out our time for worry about the neighborhood rattling or smoldering into a dust pile.

Personally, I think alot of people’s hesitation about taking on chores like bolting foundations, or cutting defensible space, has to do with inexperience. By that I mean, until you have broken into a sweat over losing your balance during an earthquake or watching trees on a nearby ridge ignite like fireworks, you may not have a gut-level appreciation for what could happen. Painful experience is an outstanding teacher and motivator.

So what’s my excuse this month ? My particular malady is overconfidence. I think that I’ve done enough and that I have time. Rubbermaid can full of stuff and water- check, big book case strapped to wall-check, “go-bag” packed, ready to grab-check , emergency lights plugged into outlets-check, gutters cleared-check. Am I ready ? Sort of. Do I have time, resources, and knowledge to become more ready ? You bet.  Then, what is it going to take ? Oh yeah- a deadline, like the clock ticking on the last 12 hours of national preparedness month- today.

Published by Jim Fazackerley

For over 30 years I explored every role possible in emergency medical services. Now, I'm focusing on helping folks prepare for disasters at the household or small company level. My favorite hobby- public affairs radio broadcasting (go figure....)

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