People will panic most often because they are ill prepared to deal with the situation that may be escalating. The reality of the situation is more than they can handle because no mental or physical preparations were ever made. In those challenging times people will look for a leader, for someone to tell them what to do and get them to safety.
In order to become a leader you must be mentally and physically prepared to react to a disaster, regardless of its nature. There are four psychological stages that one should master to deal with a crisis. These four stages are: observe, orient, decide and act.
Observe – You have to process the totality of what is occurring, not the particulars. You should avoid losing yourself to details and just concentrate on the life treating elements. For example, you do not need to know why there is a shooter in the building, just that there is one and it’s threatening your life and the ones of the people around you.
Orient – A leader should be able to pinpoint where the source of the life-threatening event is coming from, and where you are in relation to it. In any major disaster there will be a lot of confusion and various elements will change around you. In order to get a grip on reality, you will have to reorient yourself to your surroundings.
Decide – This step involves creating a plan relative to your brief orientation and observations. As a leader, you don’t have to make a perfect plan, but you must come up with something quickly because time is of the essence. In order to master this step and facilitate the decision you need to take, you should have enough emergency preparedness knowledge and experience with advanced planning.
Act – Regardless of the qualities of the plan you have created, you as a leader must act upon it immediately. During an emergency situation, inaction and doubt are the greatest obstacles. As a leader, it will be your ability to act that will make or break your survival efforts.
Rounding up the people to follow you is certainly no easy task and each type of disaster creates various elements of society that you have to act upon. There will be those who will enter a state of panic and you have two choices when dealing with them: you can try to calm them or you can avoid them. Try to calm panicking people by speaking in a relaxed, shooting and gentle tone. You should assure them that they will be okay, and that everything is all right.
Some psychoanalysts suggest empowering those that are frightened by explaining that you need their help and that you need them to be calm in order for the group to survive. Give them a goal-oriented task to occupy their mind. When included into a plan, the panicked will generally pull together their emotions quite quickly.
Suggested reading: How to form a survival group
Another alternative would be to leave them behind and although it may sound inhumane, this is a step needed in order to assure the survival of the group. People who feel panic or desperation often begin to function solely on instincts, and will most often revert back to a flight or freeze response. This can put the group in danger and their inability to function will slow you down or worse. They can also turn on you as they end up seeing everyone as a potential danger when they go through a psychotic break.
You will have to accept the reality of the situation, and effortlessly develop a split-second solution to it. Survival will not be possible if you allow someone else’s expression of panic or fear to spread. As a leader, it is your duty to take ownership of the situation and create a solution, even if it means expelling certain members from the group.
A leader should have a formed mindset, survival skills and confidence to put those skills to good use. In order to focus your mind, you will need to organize the people around you and assign tasks that will give them a functioning role in your creative survival solution. This will also give you the opportunity to think more clearly and act in a decisive manner when time calls for it.
Become the leader people need when things go south
- Assess the situation. You should clearly understand the problem and how to fix it. You must develop a plan in order to survive. Always remember the four psychological stages: observe, orient, decide, and act.
- Get everyone’s attention. Be loud and command respect from the group. Make it apparent that you are in charge. An effective leader will do this without hesitation and without confrontation. In a disaster, most people will be looking for someone to tell them what to do. Simply adopt the role if you know what you’re doing.
- Be ready to calm any fear or panic. Start by letting everyone know that things are under control, and that everything will be okay. You should be able to make them feel safe and at ease with you in charge even though the reality may be completely different.
- A good leader should offer words of encouragement. Every victory starts with a group pep talk. Start by letting them know that they are valued and needed, and that with their help this danger can be overcome. Tell your survival group how strong they are.
- Share your solution to the crisis. Even if your plan is not perfect, you should tell everyone about it and why is it going to work. Speak clearly and don’t hesitate, be specific in order to put everyone at ease.
- Be sure to delegate tasks. A leader should get everyone involved in the plan as no task is too small for the given situation. You should allow input and suggestions, but do not deviate from the original plan. If you do not let people speak their mind, you will be seen more as a dictator rather than leader. However, changing the plan unnecessarily based on “popular” suggestions can lead to confusion and destroy morale.
- As the leader of the pack, you must act on and supervise your plan. Remember that you are the leader and you will be put to the test. Many people will readily speak ill of something after it is enacted because they feel they need to make a stand and speak up, even if it’s not constructive. However, those same people will be unable to come up with a new plan. Do not allow negative comments or opinions to enter the group space and be ready to act. You should suppress any descent that would interfere with the highest interest of the group, survival.
Thinking Outside the Box, the strong point of a good leader
The responsive prepper is all too aware of the available resources that can be found in a certain environment. He or she can make good use of those resources during a crisis. The ability to improvise and come up with solutions when all odds are against you is what separates a real leader from a pretend one. Even law enforcement and first responders often use solutions that are not listed in training manuals.
These improvised tactics save lives and are a clear example of human ingenuity. Your ability to survive will largely be attributed to your quick and decisive action, but also to the ways you are able to improvise and find solutions that may seem impossible for the average Joe. As you have adopted a leadership role, you must be able and willing to act when necessary even if sometimes you have to rely on unusual solutions or tactics.
Suggested article: Prepping starts with you
Preppers may be seen as “odd” individuals by most members of society, but they possess tremendous leadership traits. They have the knowledge and skills to survive, and some of them have military background that will help lead people to safety when a crisis becomes critical.
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Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation)