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Three things (maybe four) I learned in Texas last week

Living through a large-scale catastrophic event can bring on reflective thought and self assessment. Last week’s arctic weather in my home state of Texas did that.

None of my thoughts were original – there’s nothing new under the sun, after all. But in anticipation of the next “unprecedented” force majeure, which seem to be happening a lot lately, here are a few things I want to remember:

1. Imagine your worst-case scenario, and plan for it. The freeze in Texas was described as a 100-year event. A 100-year event is improbable, or so you’d think, especially if something similar happened ten years ago. Still, planning for 100-year events makes sense. Why? Because “in the unlikely event” that the 100-year event happens, you need a plan. You really need a plan.

Even if your plan is simplistic — candles, matches, warm socks, drinking water, some M&Ms — at least you’ve done something ahead of time. It’s surprising how little things, planned ahead, can help you and others cope.

More importantly, knowing you have a plan when all the wheels are coming off gives you confidence. Confidence is a form of hope, and even a sliver of hope when things look bleak is better than none. That alone is reason enough to make a plan for the 100-year event.

2. There’s no bad situation that can’t be made worse. There were so many stories last week about desperate people who made tragic choices. Some misjudged how quickly road conditions would deteriorate in plowless Texas. Others brought their camp stoves indoors to keep warm or boil water, with deadly consequences. How many panicky people broke bones trying to walk somewhere, long before the layers of snow and ice had become passable?

Most emergencies require fast action, but some don’t. Sometimes — not always, but sometimes — doing nothing and staying put might be the best option.

I know. When no one else can help you during an emergency, it’s nearly impossible to think straight. “Compounding trauma,” as psychologists call it, can overwhelm anyone. And yet, without clear thinking, it’s easy to make a bad situation worse.

3. Anger doesn’t help. A few times during last week’s freeze, I took the weather and resulting chaos personally. That started an internal dialog of complaints. Then I realized (or rather, smarter loved ones reminded me) that taking a weather event personally is ridiculous. Of course it is.

The havoc in Texas victimized tens of millions of people. Personalizing things felt like the first step toward rash action. On the other hand, when I remembered I was in it with everyone else, that instilled more patience than I thought I had.

——

Well, those are three things I’ll try to remember for the next 100-year event. It’s probably coming soon. Because another thing I learned last week is that 2021 is turning out to be a lot like 2020, only worse.

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2 Comments

  1. Makes sense! Fear of the unknown is always difficult!

    Thank you for acknowledging that we don’t often have ice and snow, thus no snow plows!

  2. Well stated. This is a good description of why each company should have a crisis management plan, in case of a compliance crisis. We have certainly seen enough examples of companies making things worse in a panic. Having a plan can provide more of a sense of control, and help people to start thinking rationally. The plan doesn’t need to be perfect, just as you indicated for weather events, but having one can help restore a sense of control.


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