Hurricane Florence - Why Doesn't Everyone Prep? Sep 16,2018

Event Duration Dimensions ( 3 Weeks )

Hurricane Florence – Why Doesn’t Everyone Prep?


As I am sure most of you have, I have been watching the coverage of the hurricane.    Having lived through several hurricanes in Mississippi and typhoons (when in Asia), there are not a lot of surprises other than with the storm stalling a lot of rain is being dumped locally with upwards of 30 inches being reported in some areas.  Lots of power outages and over the next several days as the hurricane (now downgraded to a tropical depression) continues to dump rain on the ground, we will see the secondary effects of flooding caused by the storm.  About 14 deaths have been reported at this time and I think that speaks volumes to the amount of early warning people had and the accuracy of the forecasting. 


If you can see anything “nice” about the hurricane it would be that the events are unfolding pretty much as expected.  But that doesn’t mean there are no challenges ahead as flooding will cause additional damage and the utilities will be working to restore power – the effects of this storm will be felt for weeks if not months. 


So I saw an interesting article in the Washington Post talking about how roughly only 20% of the people do any significant preps and perhaps half of those that did some prep only took a few steps and were still unprepared once the storm hit.


So why does this happen?  The warnings have been issued (and past studies have shown that the vast majority of people believe the forecasts).  So why would people disregard the warnings or downplay the potential impact of a coming storm?  A catastrophe like a hurricane provide a lot of lead time where people could get prepared, but they don’t….  There can be some cognitive biases or basic human psychology that might prevent us from making good decisions even when we have all information we need.


1-many people are overly optimistic about the impact of the storm (maybe the power won’t go out, maybe those trees won’t fall on my house, maybe the flood waters won’t rise up that much).   If you have done any study or training in risk management – you learn very early that you have to mitigate risk = you have to prep according to the potential impact versus the probability of that risk occurring.  What preps are feasible (in terms of time, effort, and cost) to avoid or minimize a risk? 


2-prepping can be fairly complex:  you have to plan for your food, water, shelter, power, heat, hygiene, medical, defense (and other items) if service and supplies are no longer available.  Since it can be quite complex, some people take a few steps and then consider themselves to be ok.  This is a major reason that you should be planning constantly well in advance of an event, particularly one that repeats itself in your area.  There are several reasons to do this including have more time to complete your preps, evening out the expenditures by budgeting a little each month and avoiding shortages that occur when everyone else mobs the stores. 


On a side note – I am surprised to see pictures of so many vehicles (and I mean nice vehicles) sitting in driveways and flooded up to the driver’s seat.  Cars are one of the more expensive things you buy in your life, if you had to evacuate – why wouldn’t you load up that car with as many valuables and family heirlooms as you could and drive it out of the affected area?


3-some people might consider preps expenditures they can avoid – I am not talking about people that cannot afford to go purchase some emergency supplies.  I am talking about people that hope that the prep won’t be needed so they will have saved some money (or time or effort) by not doing the prep.  All I can say is if you plan your prep in advance and get the things you need just in case and then you don’t end up evacuating or the storm is not as bad as it could have been… well, then you just had a great dress rehearsal for the next crisis.


4-amenesia:  some people are doomed to repeat the past.  The ordeal of that last bad storm starts to fade in your memory and what should be your best motivator for completing your prep (knowing what it was to do without last time, the cold, the discomfort, the danger, etc), is not recalled or conveniently forgotten.  If you must, write down some lessons learned so you can refer to that list in the future.


5-we are creatures of habit:  we all get in our routines and when something like a hurricane starts brewing offshore, it is sometimes difficult to switch gears from your day to day schedule to begin doing those things you should be doing to get ready for the storm.  It is the path of least resistance to just not change your schedule or routine!  You need to break out of that “rut” and re-orient on the problem at hand.  If you can’t do that, then you might need to make prepping part of your routine.


So what can be done?  Well, seeing others get ready for the storm helps procrastinators also get started.  This might be a case where you want to let your neighbors know that you are prepping or have already prepped.  Encourage them to get busy because you want them to be as prepared as they can be as you might need them for support after the storm has rolled through and you certainly don’t want them to be relying completely on you to get them through the aftermath.  Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was fully prepped? (cue the Beach Boys song….)


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