General News — 07 December 2012
Prepare your mind, not just your house, for disasters this summer

Red Cross and the Australian Psychological Society have published a psychological preparedness guide to help people manage the emotional challenges of living through a disaster.

John Richardson, Emergency Services Coordinator at Red Cross, said people are often told in the lead in to summer that they need to prepare their home and property for a bushfire, flood or storm but preparing yourself emotionally is also a crucial step to surviving a disaster.

“Disasters are highly stressful and alarming events.  When faced with a disaster the adrenaline kicks in and people can find it very difficult to think rationally and make the best decisions about their safety and wellbeing,” said Mr Richardson.

Dr. Susie Burke, a senior psychologist from the Australian Psychological Society, said people who take steps to anticipate, identify and manage how they might feel before and during a disaster can go a long way to limiting the negative effects of living through such an event.

“The guide asks people to consider how they would think, feel and react if the air filled with thick black smoke, if the power went out, if a family member was missing, or if their home came under ember attack,” said Dr Burke.

“It is impossible to know exactly how you will react in such a scenario, but by anticipating your emotional response you can limit the uncertainty which feeds fear and anxiety during a disaster.”

The Psychological Preparedness Guide is intended for adults who are at risk of being exposed to a disaster, including fires, severe storms and cyclones, floods, earthquakes and heatwaves.  It recommends simple preparedness tasks that will help give people a sense of confidence and control during a disaster.

“In the last five years the psychological damage left in the wake of major disasters, like the Black Saturday fires, the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi, has proven as devastating as the physical damage.  To help build resilience in the community we have partnered with the Australian Psychological Society to produce this guide,” said Mr Richardson.

“The Preparedness Guide identifies unhelpful thinking, such as false assurances about the predictability of disasters or believing that bad weather warnings never eventuate. It links with other Red Cross household preparedness materials, as being practically prepared can also reduce stress during disasters.”

To download a copy of Psychological Preparedness for Disasters or to donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery please go to www.redcross.org.au.

As provided by Australian Psychological Society.

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