For the first 2 ½ hours, journalist Amanda Ripley discussed the psychology of disaster response and her new book, The Unthinkable. When a person encounters a disastrous circumstance they may first react with disbelief or denial, as the brain tries to normalize the situation, she explained. Under extreme stress, a person can experience time distortion, with events slowing down or speeding up.
In a desperate situation, strangers often become more generous with each other, and people support each other as a group, she detailed. Blue collar men without children are the most likely to perform risky, heroic acts, while women are more likely to survive severe storms such as hurricanes, because they are willing to evacuate, Ripley reported.
Agencies in charge, such as FEMA, tend to distrust how the public will respond to disasters, she said. Assessing your risks in advance in advance of calamity is helpful, Ripley commented, and people who take an active role in responding to a disaster tend to have a quicker emotional recovery than those who remain passive.
During the remainder of the program, callers shared their survivor stories.