Research suggests that about one-half of us will experience, in our life time, an event so traumatic, so disastrous, that it will meet criteria A for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Criteria A is met when a person encounters a threat to life or limb, observes another killed or threatened with death or serious bodily injury, or has a loved one killed or threatened with death or serious bodily injury.) Happily although about one half of us will experience such a disastrous event most of us will not develop a full blown case of PTSD. In fact, research shows that, presently, PTSD is experienced by only about 8% of the population at some time in their lives. But the data also indicates that PTSD is twice as common in women as in men, and that after a terrorist event, such as the Oklahoma City Bombing, that up to one-third of those directly affected will develop PTSD. Likewise, it is more prevalent in the population than panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder although it is less common in comparison to major depression or substance use disorders.
But the fact remains, that on average, about one-half of us are going to be involved in a disaster, personal or otherwise, sometime during our life. Knowing that fact, then why is it that most of us do not prepare for disasters? Yes, we don't prepare! At least that's what numerous studies have shown over the last 60 years. For example, during the 1950's data indicated that while 66% of us thought nuclear war was possible only 4.5% of us participated in civil defense programs.
More recent studies have had similar results. For example, a study performed in October 2005 (note that it was performed post 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina) indicated that at least 50% of us reported being no better prepared for a disaster than we were pre 9/11 and, in fact, 4% of us reported being less prepared. Another study, this one involving New Yorkers, performed in 2006 found that only about 17% reported having a home emergency supply kit which contained enough food and water to last three days.
Presently it's my opinion that a major factor in our lack of preparedness revolves around the fact that it is psychologically uncomfortable to think about stuff like this. Yep, the notion is off-putting if not downright scary. Correct? Well, too bad. Trusting to luck isn't good enough because for at least half of us the big whammy is going hit someday.
So what can we do? I suggest getting involved is one thing we can do. Since 9/11 several federal and state volunteer organizations have been developed. Two of these are the Medical Reserve Corps and the Community Emergency Response Team. These two organizations are made up of volunteers who are interested in learning about disasters and providing services in their community following a disaster. I can think of no better way to prepare for a disaster in your community than to get hooked up with one of these organizations before a disaster strikes. More information about these two organizations can be found at http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/about.shtm and http://www.medicalreservecorps.gov/HomePage.
But what about my family you ask? You say we need a home emergency kit and plan, where do I find out about that? Well, one of the things our government has done right is to develop a very helpful website called Ready America. Check here to find detailed information about family preparedness-- http://www.ready.gov. In particular, download pertinent brochures and manuals from this webpage-- http://www.ready.gov/america/publications/allpubs.html.
In conclusion I urge you to make family preparedness a part of your routine. I mean you brush your teeth and floss, don't you? And you do that to prevent a dental disaster, correct? Well, if you can do that you can also spend some time getting ready for that big whammy that's going to hit at least half of us someday. Use the information and websites provided above to get started. And, good luck.