How Not to Panic!


Disasters, both big and small, bring on a range of emotions. These emotions can include fear, confusion, uncertainty, anger, and others. Include with those emotions the possibility of danger and dealing with a situation you may not have dealt with before and you could experience panic.

What is panic? It is a state of emotional being that causes you to act uncontrollably, freeze, shut down and/or react in a dangerous or illogical manner. In other words, it means you are unable to think well enough to act properly. Panic is not going to help you in a disaster situation.

In this article, I will help you learn how to recognize panic, combat the onset of panic, and react in a logical and helpful manner in spite of your initial emotional state.

Panic is an extreme state of fear, terror, dread, horror, anxiety, etc. It will either cause a bad reaction to a situation, or even worse, to freeze and not react at all. We’ve all been uneasy, anxious, or afraid. Panic is an extreme onset of these emotions. If your mind is racing, your body is tensed, your heart is beating extremely fast, and you can’t think straight, you are well on the road to panic. So, what can you do?

If you feel panicky, stop and take a deep breath. Calm yourself and think through the situation. Determine your priorities and then act.

Easier said than done, for certain, but there is a three step process to help you with situations you can reasonably expect. You must Predict, Prepare, and Practice.

Predict. Determine situations and scenarios that may occur, from most likely to least likely (i.e. severe weather and nuclear war, as two possible extremes). List them out in order from most likely to least likely. Then decide what your reaction should be. Once you have decided what your reaction should be, decide what you will need to react to that situation. For instance, for severe weather, have appropriate clothing and know where the best place in your work, home, etc., is for you to shelter from that weather.

Prepare. For each of the scenarios you predicted above, determine what you will need to act appropriately. For instance, in the severe weather scenario, have appropriate clothing where you can get to it. Whether this is warm clothing, rain gear, rubber boots or other gear, obtain it and put it where you might need it. You may wish to place some gear in the trunk of your car for commuting or trips. You may want to pre-position extra gear at work or keep an emergency poncho in your briefcase or backpack. The point, get what you need and put it where you need it. A warm coat and gloves left at home, do you no good if a blizzard hits while you are at work.

Practice. This is a critical thing to holding down panic. For each of the scenarios above, practice what you would do. For severe weather, have a tornado drill and have your family all go to the safest room in your home. For a fire at work, take a walk down the emergency escape route (as long as you don’t trigger any alarms). For things you absolutely cannot practice, think through the scenario and decide what to do ahead of time. You can’t practice for every possible situation, but if you spend the time practicing for likely scenarios, you will practice keeping calm and thinking through the situation, then acting accordingly. You’ll find that even in scenarios you may have never practiced, you’ll be much calmer, and a calm person makes better decisions.

So, you can learn how to keep from panicking. Perform the three Ps above. Predict, Prepare, and Practice as much as you can, and you will be in a much better position to hold down panic and act accordingly. It may just save your life!


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