I remember being in grammar school during the fire drills. The Dominican sisters made sure that we were quick and quiet when we exited the building. During my eight years there they probably did at least 25 drills. My guess is that if there was a real fire (thank God there wasn’t) and we didn’t know it, they wouldn’t tell us. They would simply say it was a drill so that none of the kids would panic. We would perform the habit of exiting quickly and quiet.
That’s also why responsible people plan ahead. They look at the potential risks in their lives and recognize the fact that it makes more sense to plan a response while things are calm instead of trying to figure out what to do when they’re panicky. For instance, they have a charged fire extinguisher in their kitchen to stop a small fire from taking their entire home. What’s the alternative? “Wow – the oil from my skillet caught fire and it’s spreading! What should I do? Was it salt or sugar or baking soda that’s supposed to put out a fire? Do we still have a (working) fire extinguisher in the basement?” Meanwhile, a small fire can engulf a room in seconds. Literally seconds. Check it out on the web. We’ve all tried to start a fire in the fireplace with newspaper kindling and thought “the flame is RIGHT on the paper. Why isn’t this thing catching so I can start preparing the shrimp before company comes?!” I can’t answer that question. But I can tell you that a typical room has a ton of hearty combustibles that can spread a fire quicker than a nun slapping your head because you talked during a fire drill. Kitchen fire extinguisher. $15 at Home Depot or Benny’s. Teach your kids, mother, wife, husband and brother-in-law that uses too much oil for the spaghetti aglio e olio how to use one.
That’s one of many examples. But it’s a start. When something bad happens and we’re flung into stress, let the habit of responding to that stress be something that’s predetermined, manageable and familiar. You’ll be unsurprised how well you’ll handle it.
In times of stress we revert to habit. This is a quote from Zig Ziglar, a great motivational speaker. I could never get it out of my head. Being in the safety business, maybe that’s a good thing.
Alan DiBenedetto is a Safety Specialist for Thermo Fisher Scientific and sings with The Islanders. He lives in North Kingstown.