Can I get a redo?

Photo: Failed by VCTStyle

There are three stages to emergency planning: preparation, the event, and recovery. In June I blogged about how to prepare psychologically for the recovery stage of an emergency or disaster. Now I’m wondering how to prepare psychologically for the event itself.

Hypothetical situation: it’s a sunny, warm summer day. This month is the driest on record for your city. One evening around dinnertime you look out the front window and find a raging river of mud has taken over your street.

Do you:

  1. Throw on your bathing suit and flip flops and go wading with all the kids?
  2. Grab your camera and start taking pictures?
  3. Text your BF to come over and enjoy the spectacle?
  4. Hide under your bed until it’s all over?
  5. See if you still have fresh water and fill up every large container in your house in case supply is disrupted?

Any answer but #5 is a fail. What did I do? I grabbed my camera and took pictures. When neighbours emerged from their houses to look at it with me, I enjoyed a social moment. Then and only then did I go inside and start doing what I should have done at the outset.

I’ve been a safety warden in an office tower and had the helmet and flashlight to prove it. I’ve trained to prepare properties for bushfires with Fire & Rescue New South Wales. I’ve taken emergency preparedness courses with North Shore Emergency Management teams. It feels like I should have responded more sensibly.

One good thing – it was only a ruptured water main. The District of North Vancouver moved its crews in quickly and cleared the mess. But in a true disaster, like a major earthquake, there won’t be nearly enough resources to go around. That river of mud and debris would signal our drinking water running down to the sea with no hope of recovering it.

The risk of thinking about disasters is that we may only prepare for recovery. Is there any way to prepare for the event itself? I’m not sure. I like to think of Tuesday’s event as a dress rehearsal where the result came back must try harder.

Have you ever been in an emergency situation where you wish you’d responded more proactively? Or have you ever done exactly what you should have done and felt that sense of being in control, as much as being in control is possible in an emergency or disaster situation? 

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Photo by Maggie Bolitho