This evening I listened for a while to a radio interview with the author of a new book on the experience of people who survive disasters. She termed the psychological reaction "shock," and stated that it included a regression to a child-like state in which one looks to "adults" for help, such as the government. This state of "shock" she said, happened because those affected by the disaster could not mentally process what has occurred to them; they could not fit it into their mental narrative of their life and the world. She offered as examples survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the nation in the aftermath of 9/11.

Hmmmmm. OK. Some folks appeared to behave in ways that support her thesis, like Ray Nagin and much of New Orleans, some did not, like the NYFD.

Assuming her central idea to be true, how can we prevent our going into "shock" following a disaster? If the cause is a lack of ability to process the experience into our narrative of the world, then perhaps we need to start with our world-view. As a professor of mine used to say, "If you find yourself becoming disillusioned, perhaps you had some illusions you needed dis-ed from."

Start by accepting the idea that bad things happen. If you live on the Gulf Coast or Southeast Coast of the U.S., you will get hit by hurricanes. Here in the Midwest, tornadoes; the Plains, blizzards; California, earthquakes and fires. Think about that fact. Imagine that fact.

Then, act like an adult. Make plans and take steps. Insure yourself and your home. In tornado alley, have a cellar or know where the nearest public storm shelter is. In California fire country, keep brush cut back near your house, use fire-resistant shingles. Along the coasts and in fire and flood country, choose carefully where you live.

Make plans. Talk to your family about your plans. Keep a supply of canned food and water in the house in case of utility outages. Make sure your local community has emergency plans, even if you must run for the city council to get it done.