Ask yourself this question; during the last fire alarm at your job did you follow one of the building captains down the proper stairwell to safety, or did you cower under your desk to finish the last 15 minutes of your conference call? Do you get annoyed whenever you are watching your favorite program on television and the screen turns into a kaleidoscope of neon colors, an ear-splitting sound emerges from the speakers, and a semi-robotic voice decries “this is a test of the emergency broadcasting system, this is only a test…”
Well, you are not alone. In the post-911 world in which we live, our society is bombarded with various forms of emergency management communications. So much so, in fact, that we tend to err on the side of not reacting to various emergency stimuli in our daily lives. Despite the inconvenience these emergency tests may cause, we must remain diligent about following their directions. The more we practice during non-emergency situations, the more resilient we will be for the next real emergency.
A recent study in the New York Times highlighted an interesting discovery. Scientists researched how special-operations soldiers and race car drivers achieved resilience during the physical and emotional stresses of their jobs. These individuals were placed in brain-scanning machines as they wore face masks, and the researchers were able to control the flow of oxygen at the press of a button. In another control group, 48 healthy adults were placed in the same machines and were given the same face masks to wear. These adults were divided into three groups: high resilience, average resilience, and low resilience. These categories were determined by questionnaires given to them about their self-perceived emotional and physical resilience.
As the researchers began restricting the flow of oxygen, something interesting happened. The control group of “low resilience” healthy adults had brain signals that were quite inactive right before they realized the button was going to be pushed, resisting the flow of oxygen.