Your Brain Needs a Blueprint – Part II

How much control do you have over your own survival in a disaster? The surprising fact is that our actions matter more than most of us think.

Replacing a fatalistic “if it happens, it happens” attitude with confident, active participation can mean all the difference. The secret? Practice.

Research reveals that our brains follow established neurological pathways; when faced with a situation, they search for a familiar pattern of response. In a crisis, they often can’t find a suitable response and choose the wrong one. The most common is freezing like a deer in headlights. While we may expect panic to reign in a disaster, entire groups of people can actually become immobilized by an event they have never experienced before and simply shut down, leading to tragic results.

The good news is that our brains can easily be trained to establish new pathways by planning and rehearsing basic safety procedures beforehand. A blueprint for the brain to follow reduces the danger of lethargy and replaces fear with a steady confidence in an emergency.

St. John’s Hospital in Joplin, MO had such a blueprint. Their emergency management plan was practiced twice a year, conveniently just four days before the 2011 tornado hit. It included instructions to move all patient beds into the hallways, away from windows, which is believed to have saved lives. Although the building was ravaged, with all power and every single window blown out, only 5 patients and 1 visitor died in the disaster.

It had been two years since Boston, MA conducted a city-wide bomb drill, but the effects of that rehearsal were clear the day of last year’s marathon. The clockwork efficiency and speed of response teams was invaluable. Several victims arrived in near-death condition at area hospitals and likely would not have lived more than a few minutes longer.

In our nation, the overwhelming majority of “heroes” are not professional emergency responders, but regular people taking action to save themselves and others. Each of us will be the “first responder” in the worst moments of any disaster, and with preparation will be capable of taking care of our loved ones.

Richland County Disaster and Emergency Services urges you to Practice Life-saving Action Now (PLAN) as part of the “Dare to Prepare at the Fair” challenge. Pick up a PLAN form at our fair booth in the Agriculture Building, or prior to the fair at Sidney’s Public Library. Complete the information for your family or business, and show us your completed PLAN at the Fair for a chance to win some great prizes. See you at the fair!


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