Amanda says people go through three phases during disasters:
- A profound period of denial: "Your brain works by identifying patterns and will be incredibly creative when it sees abnormal cues to make it normal," she says.
- Deliberation: People get very social and interact with each other to figure out as a group what to do.
- The decisive moment when people take action: "We found that people do not respond to one official warning—they respond to many," Amanda says. "Warnings need to be repeated, they need to be consistent and from a credible source. People check with four to five sources before they evacuate before a hurricane."
Have supplies and equipment ready. Make sure to have a battery-powered radio and enough water, food, first aid kit materials and clothing to survive for up to three days on your own, either at work, at school or at home, Major Bucciarelli says. "The federal guidance is that you have that kit ready because the federal response is not geared to kick in and provide assistance for 24 to 72 hours," he says. "I think very few people have taken the effort to embrace that preparedness part of family response."
Have a communication plan. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Major Bucciarelli called a meeting with his extended family to discuss what they would do if another disaster would strike. They talked about how they would communicate, where they'd link up if they couldn't talk, who would pick up children from school, etc. Also, he says to have an out-of-town contact—someone who's not going to be caught up in the disaster that you can use as a touch point.
Have a shelter in place. Especially if the environment outside is hazardous, Major Bucciarelli says you don't want to put yourself outside. "Figure out what's going on, stay there for as long as you need to and the authorities say it's safe to evacuate, and then follow the designated routes," he says.