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Coping With Fire Threat Requires Psychological Preparation

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The current wave of fires across much of Australia is highlighting the need for psychological preparation as much as practical preparation, according to the Australian Psychological Society.

“The advice for people in fire risk areas tends to focus on practical preparation, like removing possible fuel, having hoses ready, working out your firefighting or evacuation plans, all of which is highly desirable,” says Dr Bob Montgomery, Director of Communications for the Society.”But the repeated experience has been that many people, until it is almost too late, will do few or even none of those practical preparations,” he said, “and we have a good understanding of the psychological barrier to that practical preparation.””To undertake those preparations is to admit to yourself that you are at risk and for many people that is too anxiety-provoking. So they stick to the anti-anxiety belief most of us learned in childhood: bad things do happen, but to someone else. When fire does strike, these people are ill-prepared and more at risk of panic and then doing something that increases their risks.”Preparing for the possibility of fire, hearing warnings of high fire risk days, fighting with or sensibly escaping from a fire, and picking up the pieces after a fire, are all stressful situations. People will cope with that stress and those situations better if they take some steps to manage their inevitable anxiety at each point.”We have written a practical tip sheet which gives step by step instructions to help people prepare psychologically for any natural disaster, including fires” said Dr Montgomery. “It’s never too late to do some essential psychological as well as practical preparation.”(Source: Australian Psychological Society: January 2006.)

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Posted On: 30 January, 2006
Modified On: 16 January, 2014

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