February, 2015

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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SWALLOWED by the Dragon, Part 2

Thank you for the feedback Utah. It appears a vast majority of folks in the Wasatch couldn’t be bothered with the subject of PREPAREDNESS. Even a disaster such as the ones in Haiti, Christ Church, New Zealand, or Sumatra do not send fellow Utahans to local Emergency Essentials outlets to pick up emergency preparedness kits.

At the risk of repeating myself, the “rules” for preparedness over the course of a 72 hour period are quite simple:

  • People should prepare for natural disasters by keeping an emergency kit in their home, car, and workplace.
  • Each person should have enough water, food, and items such as a battery-powered radio, blankets, and extra clothing to be self-sufficient for 72 hours after an emergency.
  • Families should devise a plan covering how members will contact each other if they’re separated when a disaster happens.
  • Families should agree in advance on a meeting place and an out-of-area contact person to whom they can report that they are safe.
  • Take a first aid course, including CPR.
  • Know the safe and dangerous places in your home.

Did you know that Utah averages nearly 500 earthquakes per year (magnitude over 1.5 – 473 last year)? I was stunned, as I had no idea. Perhaps like myself, you may have heard that it has been 1300 years since the Wasatch range had a major earthquake and the chances for one soon are very high. Yet most Utahans do not have earthquake insurance and believe they are financially prepared for one.

This “dragon of inaction” could be a mistake. Scientists believe over 80% of the population would be impacted by a 7.0 earthquake and the Wasatch Front faces a 1-in-7 chance of that being a reality within the next 40 years. What would it look like? Consider a three to nine foot “curb” running right through Salt Lake City and beyond, approximately three thousand people would die, 50,000 would be injured and there would be nearly $35 billion in damages.

Imagine if you will the population of Ogden being displaced and needing public shelter as over 30% of the buildings were damaged beyond repair. Fires could be widespread and emergency personnel would be so overwhelmed it may take days before they could reach some areas of destruction. Power and water could be out for weeks. Oh, and that little gadget that you have in your hand that has become nearly an appendage, communication systems would be out for weeks, if not months, let alone other necessities we come to rely on.

We just passed the tenth anniversary of the 9.3-magnitude quake and tsunami that killed over a quarter of a million people. Scientists claim that what happened in Sumatra in December 2004 will happen in North America beyond any reasonable doubt. How about you, do you believe it could happen in the Wasatch Front? If so, what are you doing to prepare yourself (and your neighbors)?

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SWALLOWED by the Dragon

ANY one else out there who believes that their token preparation for the Big One is inadequate? This tokenism is what I call the “dragon of inaction” – a psychological barrier that prevents people from preparing for disasters such as earthquakes.

If one were to poll an authority on earthquakes, there is a long held belief that a mega-quake through the Wasatch is immanent. This sleeping monster’s destructive power is reported to be one of the biggest America will have seen to date.

While some businesses, local governments, and locals have made some plans to cope with natural disasters, truth is, most are sitting on their hands. What is this dragon of denial that keeps Utah’s citizens from getting prepared? While the next major disaster may not be the Big One, the likelihood of having to deal with a major disaster in your lifetime is pretty high.

Local corporations have done a good job in educating people about disasters, but most folks in the Wasatch do not even have a basic plan. There a number of websites and readily available social media sites pumping out information, but short of having some bottled water, people are more apathetic than ever.

What thoughts do you have on the subject? Are you prepared? Are corporations doing the best they can to provide you with the information you need? We will discuss your answers and talk more about preparedness in Part 2.

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