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Encourage preparedness mindset with this book: “The Unthinkable”

600 384 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Suppose that significant other isn’t into preparedness. What is the first thing to do to get them thinking about the possibility about the “unthinkable” happening?

Hand them a copy of this book.

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by Leon Pantenburg

Amanda Ripley’s “The Unthinkable” is not about disaster recovery: It’s about what happens in the midst  of one – before emergency personnel arrive and structure is imposed on the loss. It’s about the human reaction to disaster and how you should act if you want to survive.

Survival Book Review: The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why By Amanda Ripley

This is a  fact: Nine of 10 Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquake, tornado, hurricanes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow you may have to make significant decisions to save yourself and/or your family. Or maybe you could have to make those decisions before you finish reading this!

It may be in an urban or  wilderness survival situation. Or you may have run to the grocery store for a gallon of milk when the earthquake or tornado hits.

Regardless of where or when the incident occurs, you will have to take decisive actions to survive.

But the overwhelming response, of the great majority of people, to that concept is something along the lines of:…I, personally, will not be affected by any of those emergencies…. And even if a disaster happens, it somehow won’t threaten or engulf  me or my family… But if it does, there’s nothing I can do anyway, so there is no need to prepare…

This is denial. If that continues to be part of your mindset, then you have just gotten into the first phase of a deadly, downward behavior progression that could cost your life.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why” Amanda Ripley, an investigative journalist, writes about the human psychological reaction to disasters. Ripley covered some of the most devastating disasters of our time, and retraces how people reacted. She interviews leading brain scientists, trauma psychologists and other disaster experts. She comes up with the stunning inadequacies of many of our evolutionary responses.

Ripley’s book is not about disaster recovery: It’s about what happens in the midst  of one – before emergency personnel arrive and structure is imposed on the loss.

Ripley describes a “survival arc” everyone must travel to get from danger to safety. The survival arc’s three chronological phases of denial, deliberation and the decisive moment make up the structure of the book.

And while the path to survival may resemble a roller coaster rather than an arc, Ripley writes, it’s rare that anyone gets through a disaster without passing through these main stages at least once.

If you’ve ever thought about a disaster and possible reactions to it, then you’re on the right track. Ripley starts the survival arc process with the thought “I wonder what I would do if…”

Here’s the survival arc progression, according to Ripley, of a typical reaction to a disaster situation:

Denial: This can’t be happening. This isn’t happening to me. It’s all a bad dream. I’m imagining this. In a moment everything will be all right.

Denial is the most insidious fear response of all.“The more I learned, the more denial seemed to matter all the time, even long before the disaster, on days that passed without incident,” Ripley writes. Denial can manifest itself in delay.  Or it can cause people to freeze or become immobile in disbelief. Many, if not most, people shut down in a crisis, quite the opposite of panic. Denial can paralyze you.

Deliberation: We know something is terribly wrong, but don’t know what to do about it. How do you decide?

The first thing is the realization that nothing is normal. We all think and perceive things differently. We become, Ripley claims, superheros with learning disabilities. At this point, you need to have some training, or prior “What If?” planning  to fall back on. The overwhelming tendency will be for your mind to go blank, and you won’t have clue on what to do next. Let’s hope you learned the STOP mindset  exercise. (See story link).

Your brain may be like the computer that has lost all its connections. Remember STOP as one of those vital links. Embed the acronym, and how to use it, into your psyche. To get through the deliberation phase and on to the decisive moment, you will have had to rely on your survival mindset and prior training.

The Decisive Moment: You’ve accepted that you are in danger, deliberated the options and
now it is time to make a plan to do something. If you’re in a group, about 75 to 80 percent of the crowd will do nothing, according to John Leach in “Survival Psychology.”

Another 10 to 15 percent will do the wrong thing, and only about 10 percent will make the right decisions. And these people who react appropriately will do so because of previous training. (Read the Survival Psychology review.)

Anybody with a “Be Prepared” mentality hopefully moves quickly through the initial denial phase. We’ll also hope that you have read and studied survival techniques so you will be able to deliberate effectively and move on to the decisive moment phase. But even if you think you’re prepared mentally for surviving a disaster,  “Unthinkable” is a book you need to read.

The book  is not about stockpiling food, tools, weapons or prepping. You must understand what goes on in your head during a disaster before you can use your tools. You’ll need information and techniques to respond correctly. Some of that information can come from “The Unthinkable.”

The book’s information is a powerful survival tool. It should be in your prepper or survival library.

“This awful catastrophe is not the end but the beginning. History does not end so. It is the way its chapters open.” St. Augustine.

Click here to listen to earthquake expert geologist James Roddey on SurvivalCommonSense.com Radio

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2 comments
  • petem

    Does the book describe conflicts that arrise between people when deliberating what course of action is best to take? We have had wilderness rescues of groups that split up with males leaving females, strong leaving the weak, even one brother leaving another. The common reason was they argued about what to do next.

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