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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mindset and Practice

So far, we've talked a little about what preparedness planning is, how to identify things to prepare for in your area, how to put together your 72-Hour Kit for each family member and one for each vehicle.

Today I want to spend some time talking about Mindset, Attitude and Practice ~ because these are the things that will actually save your life if you ever need to put any of your preparedness plan into action. I hope that after reading the information here that you'll understand the importance of practicing your preparedness skills.

We've all grown up hearing the phrase "practice make perfect". Well, in reality it should read like this "PERFECT practice makes perfect". Why?

Because the more we practice something, the more ingrained it becomes in our brains until it forms a habit or an automatic response - something we can do automatically without thinking about it much at all.

If we are practicing something incorrectly, it stands to reason that all we are doing is teaching ourselves an incorrect habit, right? This is true.

This is why you will find people who are "at the top" of any game or sport have practiced ruthlessly over and over and over until they have it right. Then they keep on practicing it the "right" way over and over again. It isn't enough to just know how to shoot a basketball toward the basket, they practice until they can instinctively find the basket and hit it from anywhere on the court.

This is the same way we should approach our family emergency preparedness planning. We should practice it with the same level of desire for success ~ because if we ever need to use our skills in this area, it could be a life or death situation for our family and chances are it will be stressful. I want to know that I have excellent chances at winning when the stakes are so high - don't you?

For example, I don't want to be learning how to operate our kerosene heater AFTER the ice storm arrives, I want to know that I know how to make it work for me well before the first ice pellet ever hits the ground. I don't want to find out that my backup weather radio has dead batteries during a major tornado warning - I want to make sure it is always at the ready.

Our mindset and attitude are what will determine how successful we are at not only "perfectly practicing" our preparedness skills, but also how we put them into action when an emergency arises.

It takes commitment to practice skills that we don't need on a daily basis and hopefully might not need at all. But our mindset and attitude should tell us that we need to practice these skills anyway.

Numerous studies have shown that the brain can "ACT" quicker than it can "REACT". Think about this for a minute. To "act" implies an immediate response or course of action. To "react" requires that we first identify if there is a problem, what the problem is, then we decide how to respond to it.

Which of these do you think is a quicker way to respond in the event of a life or death emergency? ACTing is always quicker than REACTing. The only way to be prepared to ACT in the event of an emergency is through "perfect practice" - making your actions an ingrained habit.

Here are a couple of great examples of the importance of training yourself to ACT instead of REACT.

In my local paper last year, there was an article about the boy scouts who were caught up in a tornado while out camping. What struck me most about the article was this quote:

"On Tuesday, the Scouts learned what to do before, during and after a tornado. So on Wednesday night, after the twister passed, the Scouts took a head count, just as they had practiced. Then, just as they practiced, they administered first aid to the wounded."

Boy scouts practice their skills all the time until the become very proficient at them. They go on camp outs for the sole purpose of practicing their skills. And their practice here saved lives.

More recently, we've been reading about all the people in Kentucky who had not prepared at all, apparently, for the coming ice storm. They didn't have generators. They didn't have extra food that didn't require refrigeration. They didn't have little propane stoves to cook on so they could have a warm meal. They didn't have a backup method for heating their home. They didn't have a plan for what they would do if the power outage happened to last for weeks. We've ready article after article about how unprepared the majority of people in the state were for the ice storm. And it didn't have to be that way. They had advance warning. Many could have been much more prepared than they were.

In the May 29, 2008 issue of Time Magazine, there is an article about How To Survive a Disaster. The best parts of the article are reading about what people didn't do in response to impending disaster and how their inaction ultimately lead to their deaths.

People who study disasters and survival teach that when faced with disaster or impending disaster, most people go into "freeze mode". They either don't realize disaster is about to strike, they don't know what to do to try to survive, they deny disaster is about to strike, or they never saw it coming. In all these situations, people will "freeze" instead of "act".

Quite simply their brains had never, ever thought about the possibility of such an event happening and they had no automatic response for it, so they simply didn't respond at all. They froze instead.

The only way to make sure you don't "freeze" is to have perfectly practiced your "what if" scenarios for your preparedness plan so you have a survivor mindset. You can do things like:

~ Practice with your family what you all would do in the event of a fire. Know where all the exits are from any location in your home. Know where you all would meet outside the home to take a head count and make sure everyone was out. Then have an unannounced fire drill and time it. Does everyone do what was practiced? How long did it take? Did anyone get forgotten? Did everyone meet at the appropriate location outside your home? Then keep practicing it until you believe everyone has it down pat. Is this convenient? Of course not, but essential it is.

Then go a step further. Think about the places you frequent during the day or week. What would you do if a fire started at one of those places? What is your plan of action?

~ Practice with your family what you would do in the event of a tornado warning if you are in this part of the country. Where would you take shelter inside your home? What items does each person take with them to the safe room? Or better yet, how do you prepare in advance and pre-position items in your safe area? What would you do if you were out in your vehicle or at the grocery store or the mall or other place during a tornado warning?

~ Practice with your family what you would do in the event of an earthquake if this is applicable to you. Where are the safe areas of your home should an earthquake happen? What do you do after an earthquake? And again, what if you were away from home during an earthquake? Where are the safe areas?

~ We are all reading about how crime is rising. You can practice these scenarios as well. You don't have to get involved in a crime to put your mind through the practice of thinking about how you would react - What would you do if the restaurant where you were eating got robbed while you are there? What would you do if you heard someone breaking into your home? What would you do if someone attempted to carjack you while you are at a stop light? Put your mind through the paces and know what you'd do without hesitation.

Every time you put your brain through the exercise of thinking about and practicing what you would do for your preparedness plan you take a step closer toward ACTING instead of REACTING - your actions are becoming a habit.

HOMEWORK: This week try to practice at least one of your preparedness plans with your family. Perhaps a fire drill or tornado drill - whatever is appropriate for your area based on the preparedness plan you've put together. Feel free to come back here and let me know how you all did!

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