The Three Stages of Crisis
By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost
In every crisis there are three distinct stages that occur to form the complete crisis scenario. Once a crisis occurs, all three stages will be experienced at some level. In preparing for a crisis, you need to be aware of the stages and prepare for each one. A failure to acknowledge any of the stages will cause hardship for those caught up in it. Our ability to foresee danger and take precautionary measures sets us apart from other animals and gives us a distinct advantage when it comes to survivability. We have the ability to create tools and store supplies to see us through the worst of a given situation.
The first stage of any disaster is the pre-crisis interval when a potential crisis becomes suspect. Some will investigate the potential danger further to deduce its’ ramifications on their lives while others will ignore the potential threat in favor of maintaining the status quo so they will not have to face the reality. Many people have a problem facing a reality that suddenly changes and pushes them out of their comfort zone. To acknowledge a threat is to question the sustainability of that comfort zone and the beliefs that the person holds. Those that acknowledge potential threats widen their comfort zones to encompass the threat and they incorporate that into their beliefs so they can accept a changing reality and adapt to it. Once a person accepts a potential threat as real, they determine how best to protect themselves from it and form a defensive plan to deal with it. The defensive measures are dictated by the type of threat and the resources available to the individual. The defensive measures taken act to enhance the persons’ comfort zone and provides mental clarity when reality suddenly changes. This is why some people handle disasters better than others. Their comfort zone already encompasses the new reality and they are able to comprehend what is happening. Those that prepare during a pre-crisis interval are prepared for radical changes in reality.
The second stage of disaster is the unfolding crisis itself. This could be short or long in duration depending on the variables involved. An earthquake is relatively quick while a 1930s style depression is very long. The analysis and preparation one makes prior to an event will determine how well the person gets through the situation. Even without all of the necessary items identified by the prior analysis, a prepared person will fare much better than the unprepared due to the fact that their comfort zone will not have been breeched allowing them to make rational decisions in a timely manner. The preparations made during the pre-crisis interval will lead to successful navigation of the crisis and prepare the individual for the final stage.
The final stage experienced will be the post crisis phase. No matter how bad or long a crisis is, eventually it will end and recovery will begin in some form. A proper evaluation of the potential crisis will provide some insight into what a post crisis reality will require in terms of human and mechanical needs. The recovery effort following a crisis will depend in large part on what preparations were made prior to the crisis to provide infrastructure for the recovery. The failure to plan for a recovery effort will extend the crisis until the necessary situation develops in which recovery can commence. The act of preparation sets the stage for recovery even before the crisis actually happens and can limit how far outside of the comfort zone the crisis extends for unprepared persons. For every person prepared for the crisis, the extent of the crisis will be limited in scope and duration by a proportional amount. Hence, if everyone is prepared for a disaster, the impact will be small and manageable and recovery will be rapid. Many people prepare for disasters but their planning stops at the crisis itself and fails to go beyond it. This can potentially extend the crisis in scale or duration until a majority of the victoms learn to move beyond the crisis and define the new reality they will live in.
As an example, you may determine that you are at risk of a tornado strike because of your location. Because of this you decide that building an underground shelter to protect your family is a sensible action so you build one. This is where most planning stops. If you believe your family is in danger then the possibility of loosing your home is very high also. A complete analysis of the potential danger can lead you to a conclusion that you may also lose your home and leave you without the ability to care for your family. Because of this you may decide to build a more robust shelter and equip it with the ability to house your family for several days and provide for all of their needs. Your post crisis planning will limit the hardship you face and aid in recovery.
To prepare successfully for crisis, you must look through to the other side of the disaster and determine how to best mold the new reality that will exist and prepare for the disruptions that are likely to occur. A plan to redefine the limits of a new reality will speed the recovery and prevent the lost, hopeless feelings that usually accompany any serious crisis. A failure to plan for the post crisis reality will leave the new limits to be discovered by trial and error and lead to a chaotic transformation rather than a smooth one.