Dealing with Disaster

9 09 2011

Gusting winds, dry plants, high temperatures – perfect condition for a wildfire, just add a spark.  First a single shrub, then a stack of brittle timber, then a field, then an acre, then a hillside, a forest, homes, lives – wildfires spread fast and devastate completely.

I cannot imagine the anguish felt by the people who lost everything.  I suspect the pain is intensified by the helpless inability to stop the disaster.  We spend our lives trying to be happy, trying to keep things “good,” and sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control that force us on a different path.  When tragedy strikes, it doesn’t care that you’re not ready.

I managed to remain unharmed by the blaze – nervous, unsettled, and inconvenienced – but unharmed.  I came this close to my personal catastrophe before being saved by a brave soul who fought for me when I could not.  That helpless feeling hung around my neck like a boulder throughout the ordeal.  Over and over in my mind, “What can I do?  What can I do?”  The more I considered the question, the more I gained clarity on the only thing I could do – learn.  What could I learn from this experience to apply to my life moving forward?  In order to be more prepared in the future, here is my plan:

Reduce stress

  • Know when to let go of your pride and ask for help.  Regular life is hard enough to deal with on your own – turbulent times are even tougher.  Forming a team is not a sign of individual weakness.
  • Get things done.  It really helps to ease your mind in tense situations if you don’t mentally compound the problem thinking of unfinished projects, unrealized dreams, and unspoken words.
  • Be prepared for emergencies.  Have a backup plan, learn CPR, search for local resources, know what things are important and worth saving, and communicate in advance with anyone that can help.

Feel better

  • Help somebody.  In any tragedy, you may struggle with your inability to help yourself, but you can redirect that desire and benefit someone else.
  • Proper communication and information are critical.  Even if you can’t do anything, you will feel better if you are informed.  News sources, websites, books, phone calls, groups, therapy are all available resources to help you understand the problem and find ways to deal with it.
  • Look for positives .  Tragic conditions can make it difficult to be optimistic, and sometimes it might be years or decades before you gain any positive perspective from the situation, but if you look hard and force the issue, you will find a way to unveil something useful in your life.

I would like to say thank you to all the firemen of this country – we are so much safer because of your selfless acts of heroism.  I wish you safety, strength, and comfort knowing your brave actions do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  We are in your debt.

Austin fire department t-shirt

Got my back.

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