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Quite a few of us have now learned that crisis decision making is not just for CEOs, heads of state, and whoever is in charge of nuclear plants. It’s for all of us when life as we know it collapses in the time it takes to say “rolling blackout”. During this last winter storm, here is what I did:

  1. Stay warm enough to stay alive.
  2. Stay calm enough to think straight.

In a crisis, getting angry is a luxury we can’t afford. It interferes with our ability to problem solve and respond appropriately to the reality we are facing. Figuring out whose fault it is, and who to blame can wait until way later.

In my own case, a friend of mine had to go to the emergency room, and after managing to travel through the storm, was turned away, as there were not enough people to run the emergency room. My dog needed to go to the veterinarian emergency clinic, but I was told we would have to wait 7 hours for help. I learned from this that the cavalry is in crisis too. The cavalry is not coming.  I had to stay calm and deal with things with the resources I already had. Was I completely prepared for this? No, but I managed anyway.  So did lots and lots of people.

Even though this last storm is being called “unprecedented”, the fact is stuff breaks down. Stuff breaks down all the time.  It’s what happens. Even if we find that one person in charge who screwed up, how does that help us for next time? The fact is people screw up with appalling regularity. It’s kind of hardwired in our human nature. So, what should we do for next time? Well, having extra water, peanut butter, and other food that doesn’t have to be heated or refrigerated would probably be a good idea. And beyond that

  1. Keep calm and deal with reality.
  2. Prioritize food, water, shelter. The rest can wait.
  3. Don’t waste precious bandwidth getting angry about things you cannot control.

Things can go wrong very quickly. Luckily, we can adapt, problem solve, survive, move forward, and learn valuable lessons for next time. (And I think maybe I’ll apply that “not wasting time getting angry about things I can’t control” to basically everything.)