I give you permission to panic. / by Brooks Watson

Along the way, I’ve experienced my share of panic. I’ve been trapped by fire 18 stories up, been lost and disoriented in house fires, and a couple times, I’ve run out of air at just the wrong moment. There have been equally stressful times, when I’ve just reacted without thinking, taking the exact right action, thankfully. Day to day, I can’t tell if I’ll panic or not when everything gets real. I can tell you this though, if I do panic, I give myself two seconds [max] to feel it, then I act.

Panic happens and thank God it does. But, panic is not a plan of action, it’s a red-flag emotion, a tool in your chest that makes it ultra clear you need to get into action now. In every one of those situations, I hit the deck, acknowledged the panic, then acted. The action came from two places: 21 years of emergency training, and from personal pre-planning for situations just like these. I role-play scenarios in my head.

You can think about this post metaphorically (how uncontrolled panic leads to inaction in your life), but I’d also like you to think about this practically, when lives are on the line in your world. For example: Panic takes over when someone needs CPR. Statistically, 70% of people do nothing. Panic also plays a part in thousands of deaths in mass evacuations every year. About 90% of people go to the exit they entered, if it’s a good one or not.

If you want to prepare for panic, do what we do: Pre-plan. If someone goes down, where is the AED in my workplace, place of worship or favorite coffee shop? Do I need a refresher on CPR? Make evacuating a priority when you enter a group setting like the movie theatre, plane, club or banquet hall. Where will everyone go when they panic? What is the best and safest choice for us?

When emergencies happen in your life you’ll probably panic. No worries, I give you permission, but only for two seconds. Acknowledge the fear, then make a decision and act. Firefighters are usually minutes away, but you’re the one that may save your day.