SWALLOWED by the Dragon, Part 3

Utah being an established earthquake zone is a given. There are numerous resources one can turn to in order to educate oneself on the subject. THE GREAT UTAH SHAKEOUT provided by www.SHAKEOUT.org listed some excellent scenarios just to name one. Utah.gov has a “Be Ready Utah” site set aside specifically to answer questions and help people get prepared for an imminent disaster.

In talking to locals in the Wasatch Front, most are aware they live in an earthquake zone but bury that knowledge beneath more immediate challenges and pray the future never comes. Will I lose my job? Can I pay my bills next month? Are more important concerns than repeated warnings about terrorism, earthquakes and floods. So what keeps people stuck?

Environmental psychology professor Robert Grifford calls the psychological barrier that prevents people from preparing for disasters such as earthquakes the “dragon of inaction.” He suggests there are 30 dragons of inaction that inhabit people’s minds and these seven keep individuals from getting ready for a natural calamity such as an earthquake:

  • The dragon of uncertainty. It often justifies inaction or postponed action.
  • The dragon of judgmental discounting. A disaster will happen later, or elsewhere, so there’s no need to do anything.
  • The dragon of habit. This beastie is also known as Behavioral Momentum. Many habitual behaviors are resistant to change, or change slowly.
  • The dragon of conflicting goals. This is also known as “I have other more important/immediate things to do.”
  • The dragon of optimism bias. “It won’t happen, at least to me, at least not soon anyway.”
  • The dragon of tokenism. People take the easiest steps to prepare for disaster rather than the most effective.
  • The dragon of conformity. If no one else in your neighborhood is preparing for an earthquake, you likely won’t either.

How does one get woken up from this lethargy? Scared straight is one idea. This approach has worked for some health concerns, such as the anti-smoking campaign. Bringing risk into the here and now, but be careful not to overdo it. Save Armageddon for the movies.

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