Natural disasters are, unfortunately, a fact of life. No matter where in the world you live, there will always be a risk of catastrophe. Whether it’s high winds, flooding, earthquakes, or wildfires, you must know the dangers and have a survival plan.
Yet, despite all this common knowledge about natural disasters, a large portion of the population still refuses to prepare. Even though plenty of evidence exists that shows how important it is to know what to do in the event of a disaster, too many people stand by the “it probably won’t happen to me” fallacy.
Why do people refuse to face facts and take the steps necessary to protect themselves and their families? Let’s explore the theories behind this thinking.
Common Reasons for Neglecting Disaster Preparedness
Over the years, researchers have explored the idea that many people don’t prepare for natural disasters. It has also been a topic at the forefront of many psychological and environmental groups’ minds, especially when trying to devise new ways to help nudge people in the right direction.
Institutions such as Charles Darwin University and the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, among others, conducted studies and found several correlating factors behind disaster preparation avoidance.
The most prominent of these are:
“It won’t happen to me!”
No one wants to believe they are at risk of danger, despite the daunting number of news stories we are faced with every day. It is all too easy to detach ourselves from what we see online and on TV. This detachment allows us to view these horrifying events in a way that makes them much more palatable. This way of viewing the world is known as myopia, and research performed by Columbia University has discovered a strong leaning towards myopia in residents of at-risk areas.
Contrary to common sense, the research found that people who lived in places at risk for natural disasters were more likely not to prepare. They often saw hurricanes and earthquakes as more likely to affect other people in other places. For example, a person living in Colorado is more likely to believe a wildfire will happen in Utah and not prepare.
“It wasn’t so bad last time!”
You’d think that someone who has lived through one disaster would be more likely to be prepared for another. However, it has been found that when we look back on disasters we have experienced, we tend to minimize or forget entirely the fear and danger we felt at the time.
This ties in with the concept of myopia. While we will remember a disaster, we may not remember the wealth of emotions we felt with it. The disconnect between a memory and an event will leave us seeing it as something that happened to someone else. As such, when we consider our own experiences, we might see them as being better than they were, and we slack off on preparations for the next one.
“They aren’t as devastating as they seem.”
While there are reams of data available to show us just how bad a natural disaster can be, the average person does not read it. Between myopia and misremembering, a lack of complete understanding leads many people to undersell the cost of preparing for a disaster. It can be easy – and reassuring – to dismiss an oncoming storm as being less devastating than it is, but this underestimation can be deadly. It only takes a few minutes to learn all they need to inspire them to action, but all too often, people will not.
Despite all the evidence showing the devastation that follows a natural disaster, some people just don’t believe in or understand their impact. These individuals often underestimate how long it will be until a storm hits during a weather warning or make inadequate efforts to prepare their homes against earthquakes or fire properly.
“If I evacuate, my home will be looted!”
It’s sad that whenever a disaster occurs, people will take advantage of it. In the last few decades, there have been many instances where widespread reports of looters have dominated the news. Most famously, after New Orleans was hit by hurricane Katrina back in 2005, global news outlets were awash with images of groups of people breaking into stores and homes.
The connection between devastation and lawless action drives people to refuse evacuation for fear of losing their prized possessions. Some have been known to choose not to leave their homes during a disaster in order to stay back and fend off criminal activity. Unfortunately, this often comes at a high price when disaster strikes.
While looting is a real thing, it has been shown that most looters are less interested in valuable personal possessions during a crisis than they are in essentials such as food. It’s not worth it to put your life in danger in a natural disaster simply to save things you can replace later.
“I cannot afford to evacuate.”
The most unfortunate of all reasons why people don’t prepare for natural disasters is poverty. Many evacuation plans require people to travel to hotels or distant family homes for the duration of the crisis. The obvious costs incurred by these plans are beyond the means of a large section of the American population. What’s more, their absence also means time off work, which causes a knock-on effect of financial loss.
Without financial assistance from the government or other aid agencies, we see many people opting to ride out a storm and pretend nothing is happening. The costs of disaster insurance also make it much harder for lower-income families to recover once the worst is over.
It may seem unthinkable that someone might willingly put themselves at risk when it comes to natural disasters–especially when we have so much information to help us prepare properly. Ensure that you aren’t caught off guard by taking adequate steps like building an emergency kit and gathering info on Utah disaster cleanup specialists to prepare for unforeseen catastrophes.