The Psychological Aspect of Disaster Preparedness

earthquake japan

Minamisanriku, Japan Mayor Jin Satomayor had just given a speech to the town assembly about tsunami preparation when the earthquake struck. Half an hour later, the tsunami that came exceeded any expectations and overwhelmed all preparations. “It was a scene from hell,” Mr. Sato, 59, said, his eyes red with tears. “It was beyond anything that we could have imagined.” Disasters are often like that. Disaster preparation is difficult because we can never tell the full extent of the damage until it happens. But that doesn’t mean we don’t prepare.

Having decided to be a very positive and optimistic person, I will not join the bandwagon of the prophets of doom who profess that the series of disasters are preliminary events for the end of the world next year. However, because I care deeply for the future of the earth and humanity, I will contribute my voice in the hope that together we will find the necessary answers to today’s most pressing question: how can we prevent or survive catastrophic disasters?

The series of disasters that happened just within this millennium – Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Indonesia and other countries, earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand, Chile and Japan, the flooding in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Philippines, Australia, China, and Brazil – point out two things: disasters happen everywhere and they happen more frequently. Perhaps we can blame human irresponsibility, or climate change, but the truth is all of us have contributed to this in one way or another and all of us are bound to be affected in more ways than one.

Various mitigating factors have been discussed all over the world and there are online references on disaster preparedness, but I would like to assert that aside from building codes, fire prevention, evacuation plans, and other important logistical and organizational preparations, we need to prepare ourselves internally. Risk reduction and psychological readiness is not so popular, yet it can make a difference in both willingness to prepare and in recovery resilience. Depression after a disaster and the post trauma disorder can paralyze a person or a community, and prevent them from cooperating towards their recovery.

Yet studies on resilience point to one thing: the skills and qualities that predict better recovery from trauma can be developed. Resiliency may differ from person-to-person, but emotional recovery skills and tools can be both taught and learned effectively. How to deal with loss of loved ones, loss of properties, loss of a community, and the physical trauma of going through the whole thing are some of the few life skills that can be taught individually or as a group.

Lastly, one thing that can be developed in every individual is a strong adherence to hope. An empowered person never loses hope no matter how dire the circumstances are. Nurturing a sense of hope is one of the best preparations for any disaster.


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It is a well-known fact that when there were no televisions or computers, reading was a primary leisure activity. People would spend hours reading books and travel to lands far away-in their minds. The only tragedy is that, with time, people have lost their skill and passion to read.

There are many other exciting and thrilling options available, aside from books. And that is a shame because reading offers a productive approach to improving vocabulary and word power.

It is advisable to indulge in at least half an hour of reading a day to keep abreast of the various styles of writing and new vocabulary.

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Wise Words

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I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

– Leonardo da Vinci

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.

Margaret J. Wheatley

There are two distinct classes of what are called thoughts: those that we produce in ourselves by reflection and the act of thinking and those that bolt into the mind of their own accord.

Thomas Paine

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