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Dave Robinson

Often following a tragic event, I note where those responsible for post-event management have brought in, not only food, shelter and medical care, but counselors to deal with confusion, survivors guilt or other mental distress. The most often heard phrase is, “remain calm.” Remaining calm is NOT a natural response when your world has been shaken, your home burned or loved ones injured. Many times people feel the need to blame someone or something. This blame-placing urge usually results from a need to gain control of the situation by putting it into a familiar or understandable context. The usual targets for fixing blame are authority figures or government officials who should have done more to lessen the effects of the disaster.

Sometime back I had some friends who headed for a motel in a nearby town the minute their power went out. When I asked about using their camping gear to get by until the electricity was restored they acted like that idea had never occurred to them. It can be very unsettling when we find out how ill-prepared we are to handle a crisis.

It is important to be able to recognize and detect the signs of stress and/or shock during an emergency. Here are several warning signs that you may experience during emergency situations.

Physical signs: fatigue, upset stomach, shakiness, dizziness, heart palpitations, clamminess, disorientation, difficulty thinking, memory loss or loss of appetite.

Emotional signs: anxiety, grief, depression, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, thinking you or your loved ones will be harmed, nightmares or extreme fear. It can be very unsettling when you look out the window and all your neighbors’ houses are dark. No lights anywhere. For those of you old enough, it’s reminiscent of having just entered “The Twilight Zone!”

When you are prepared, you are less likely to feel helpless and less likely to experience stress related disorders. You will remember what you discussed as a family and apply what you learned from those discussions and drills to help you overcome your situation.

Other things you can do now to help make a disaster less nerve-racking is to pack items in your emergency kits that you use in everyday life. For your children, pack coloring books, crayons, stories, gum, candy, stuffed animals and other useful items. For adults, pack a good book, a brush, razors, soap, playing cards, hard candy, paper and pen, medication, toilet paper and sundry items. A great family game is Yahtzee. No electricity or batteries required. Just a score pad and some dice. These items can provide relief for stress during the times you have to wait for your life to return to normal.

Other stress-relieving items are desserts. Gelatin desserts, just-add-water, pudding, cake, muffin and cookie mixes, candy bars, popcorn, dehydrated fruits and fruit drinks. These items may seem frivolous, but they can really make a difference in helping you cope in an emergency.

Developing a positive attitude and learning coping and stress relieving methods will help you, not only in times of disaster, but throughout your life. So prepare now - it will be well worth the effort! As always send your questions or comments to

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Dave Robinson is a retired postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.