In Case of Emergency, Read This Blog

In Case Of Emergency, Read Blog

A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

“What Should We Tell The Public?” — Amanda Ripley

July 14th, 2008 · 2 Comments

The next installment of the video series “What Should We Tell The Public” features Time magazine’s Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable. As I mentioned in previous posts,The Unthinkable is a fascinating book that anyone interested in or involved in emergency preparedness — or for that matter anyone who ever thinks about what they would do if faced with an emergency situation — should read.

And, in fact, in her video segment, Ripley makes a critical point about public behavior in disasters, one that she discusses in great depth in the book — that contrary to conventional wisdom (and Hollywood disaster movies) average citizens thrown into the middle of an emergency situation do not usually panic but more often than not ‘rise to the occasion’ to help themselves and others. 


Correcting the widely held misperception about public panic as Ripley does is important for a number of reasons. First, people should be confident that we ourselves — and our fellow citizens — will likely be resilient in the face of disaster. But it is just as vital that government officials and the media do not plan for and then react to major emergencies as if widespread civilian panic is an expected given. I think a goal of Ripley’s book (and this blog) is to promote the idea — borne out in reality — that the citizenry should be seen more as an asset to emergency responders than an impediment to rescue and recovery. I think that The Unthinkable — and hopefully this short video (shot last week at Time’s Washington bureau) — helps emphasize that point and address the misunderstanding.

In the “What Should We Tell The Public?” video series, I am asking leading people in the homeland security/emergency management/public health preparedness community for their tips, recommendations, and ideas on what they think citizens should know and do in order to increase their own, their community’s and their nation’s readiness. If you have any suggestions on people to interview for the “What Should We Tell The Public?” feature, or if you would like to submit a video of your own that I can post, please email me at


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