In the past six weeks, we’ve experienced unprecedented disasters of scale — some delivered by nature in the form of the big hurricanes affecting Texas and Florida, and the major fires in Napa and Sonoma counties; and some by man as was the case with the music festival massacre in Las Vegas. While these disasters wreak havoc and change lives in untold ways, how we react to them when they’re going on makes a huge difference in how we (literally) weather the storm, and in the recovery once we’re on the other side. It makes good sense to reflect on lessons learned before, during and after these disasters. Here are a few ideas to share:

Be prepared (as much as you can be)

It’s always a good idea to prepare for a disaster of any kind by having a checklist of what you’d grab if you had to leave your home within minutes (people, pets, laptops/phones, cords), and have basic emergency supplies assembled at the ready in case of natural disasters like an earthquake or fire. Here’s a great article from NYT:

Know what’s most critical and precious so you can be ready to grab it on the fly. Consider scanning important papers so you’ve got them in the cloud at the ready to retrieve afterwards (especially if you lose your home!).

Have a plan that you discuss with family members so that everyone’s looped in and can mobilize quickly.

If you’re dealing with a mandatory evacuation, get out with everyone else and earmark a safe refuge to go to; don’t try to be a hero and tough it out. Many have lost their lives with that approach. And finally, it’s a good idea to research whether your insurance coverage is sufficient; something many of us take for granted year to year.

Remain calm (avoid panic)

Do the best you can to stay calm and avoid panic when disaster strikes; panic doesn’t serve any useful purpose and when others are freaking out they seek out those who remain calm as leaders. I remember during the ’89 earthquake in the SF Bay area, I was still working at Apple. Many of my colleagues were frozen like deer in headlights, and I stayed calm and rallied them to get into their cars and head home. Leadership is always important; never more so than during a crisis — when a calm, cool head and a bias for action is key.

Seek assistance

Sign up with NIXLE on your cel phone to get up-to-the-minute relevant information in your community when disaster strikes. Find out where emergency shelters are being set up, get gas, water and food, and be aware of other assistance agencies and plug in to stay informed when you’re dealing with a crisis or disaster. Keep your devices charged so you can be in touch with loved ones and mark yourself as “safe” on Facebook.

Help others

I was really impressed with the way Sonoma residents chose to approach things (#strongsonoma) in that they adopted the mantra to help each other (at least one other individual or family) vs relying on public services like the Red Cross. And in fact in that scenario, many of the shelters turned out to have plenty of beds available because many families who were evacuated and displaced wound up staying with friends and family.

Allow for space, time and grace (in the recovery) — look for the opportunities, gifts and lessons from the situation.

You’ve been through a major disaster, and your life has been disrupted (maybe in a huge way if you’ve lost your home and/or your job!). Be gentle with yourself and allow for your system to recover from the shock, as well as dealing with practical realities of putting the pieces back together in parallel. Many are standing ready to help — for example, I understand that Farmer’s Insurance were already issuing advance checks on claims to select policyholders who were affected by the Napa/Sonoma fires — within 7 days of the situation. Also look for the gifts and opportunities and count your blessings; hopefully your family and pets have been safe and are unharmed at a minimum, and ideally your home as well. Note that your being prepared and remaining calm has made a huge difference as you begin to re-build. This will take time so be patient. Your community has likely pulled together to support one another, and hopefully that will result in stronger ties beyond the disaster itself.



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