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Normalcy Bias — Weekend Homework

Normalcy Bias

The weekend is here! We are wishing you a wonderful celebration of the 4th of July. The spirit of Independence Day LIVES in America, even now. Hoping you have great plans in the works, and want to share with you a little bit of “Preponomics Homework” to inspire your thoughts, and encourage the ongoing development of your preparedness plans. For our Weekend Homework, let’s consider the greater implications of normalcy bias. First the background, and the question follows…

The Dangers of Normalcy Bias

Background: The great threat of normalcy bias is that it can lead us both to underestimating a dangerous threat, and to inaction or delayed action in response to such a threat. It is, essentially, a state of denial. We see examples of this in stories told about extraordinary events including the attack on 9/11 of the World Trade Center towers. As the impact of the planes shook the buildings, some stopped to organize their desks or attempt phone calls rather than run to the exits for emergency evacuation. In reading these, we might not imagine that we could also find ourselves paralyzed in the face of dire emergency, and yet we are all at risk. 

In the article below, you’ll read about the story of Iliana Monteagudo. Recognizing the imminent and existential danger she was facing, she evacuated quickly and without hesitation. Iliana survived because she was able to recognize the signs of catastrophic threat, and to take action. Her ability to do so saved her life.

The collapse of the Florida high rise was, according to the news, a disaster in the making for a very long time. People may have observed signs that the building was shifting. Perhaps there were cracks. Reports were probably written. Evaluations were made. Estimates for repairs may have been secured. Conversations were probably ongoing. …but surely no one recognized the true and imminent severity of the threat or no one would have been inside the building with it came down. 

It’s easy, after the fact, to review the details and to believe that this couldn’ happen to us. The terrifying truth is that anyone among us may confront catastrophe — and it may be a catastrophe we could have, or should have, been able to predict. 

Normalcy Bias
When Iliana Monteagudo emerged from the building, there was complete darkness, with smoke and water everywhere.

Posted at The New York Post: “Florida survivor recalls escape from collapsing condo: ‘You need to run’” By Lorena Mongelli
“SURFSIDE, Fla. — “Something told me, you need to run.”

“If Iliana Monteagudo had waited another minute to listen to the voice in her head, she might not be alive.

“Two more minutes, no, no. Not even one. There was no more time,” said Monteagudo, who lived on the sixth floor of Champaign Towers South Condo that partially collapsed early Thursday morning, killing at least four and leaving 159 unaccounted for.”


The Question: Although stories of normalcy bias in the context of true catastrophe make the headline news, the ways in which normalcy bias influences our preparedness choices long before disaster strikes should also be considered. How might my own decisions be influenced by normalcy bias? How can I become more aware of the ways in which normalcy bias might be at work in my own thinking and planning processes? What steps do I need to take to reduce the risk that normalcy bias might create in my life and the lives of my family members?

Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short
By David Archibald
Baby boomers enjoyed the most benign period in human history: fifty years of relative peace, cheap energy, plentiful grain supply, and a warming climate due to the highest solar activity for 8,000 years. The party is over–prepare for the twilight of abundance. David Archibald reveals the grim future the world faces on its current trajectory: massive fuel shortages, the bloodiest warfare in human history, a global starvation crisis, and a rapidly cooling planet. Archibald combines pioneering science with keen economic knowledge to predict the global disasters that could destroy civilization as we know it–disasters that are waiting just around the corner.

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
By Laurence Gonzales
Laurence Gonzales’s bestselling Deep Survival has helped save lives from the deepest wildernesses, just as it has improved readers’ everyday lives. Its mix of adventure narrative, survival science, and practical advice has inspired everyone from business leaders to military officers, educators, and psychiatric professionals on how to take control of stress, learn to assess risk, and make better decisions under pressure.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why
By Amanda Ripley
Discover how human beings react to danger-and what makes the difference between life and death
Today, nine out of ten Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families. How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims?

HINT: Survival is one of those pass-fail kinds of courses. A passing answer shall not include “there is nothing else I can do”. There’s a lot you can do. Let’s get started.

Remain steady. Stay well. Be safe everyone!

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