Driving past Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand’s most active volcano, I got to thinking about how vulnerable we are to natural disasters here in Aotearoa. People in Christchurch are unfortunately only well aware of New Zealand’s precarious perch on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
However, in Auckland, despite our location on a field of 50 volcanoes, there appears a remarkable nonchalance about disaster preparation. Whether volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis or more ferocious weather and sea level rises bought about by climate change, most people continue on with an ‘ it won’t happen to me attitude.’ This state has been termed the ‘normalcy bias‘ – with studies showing over 70 percent of people still check with others before deciding to evacuate. Sadly this was in evidence during Hurricane Sandy with hundreds of people defying mandatory orders to evacuate.
So how can we prepare for the unthinkable?
Together with an emergency plan and kit to help you and your family survive for at least three days, and quite possibly longer, you can also prepare psychologically. The Australian Psychological Society suggests A I M – the following three steps to being psychologically prepared:
- ANTICIPATE that you will be feeling worried or anxious and remember these are normal, although not always helpful, responses to a possible lifethreatening situation
- IDENTIFY what the specific physical feelings associated with anxiety are and whether you are having any frightening thoughts that are adding to the fear
- MANAGE your responses using controlled breathing and self-talk so that you stay as calm as possible and can focus on the practical tasks that need attention