Working Through a Disaster

As disasters become more frequent, people are more likely to take them in stride. A hurricane might have flattened the house, but as long as everyone is safe and you can get to a place where you can plug in the laptop, then in a meaningful sense, life goes on.

I have heard stories too of people working on paper by candle light after rising flood waters forced them up the stairs to the attic. As I write this, my own power is out and I am waiting for the cleanup after record flooding in my town.

The first time one experiences a disruption of this magnitude, it is hard to do much more than glance around nervously at any sound or sit and stew in the moments when nothing is happening. By the tenth time, you learn that time is still limited and there are things to do.

The productivity and practicality are good, and the feeling of continuity can be reassuring. The ability to keep working can mean a faster recovery at both the household and community level.

On the flip side, the escapist impulses and the potential for distraction are cause for concern. As a disaster unfolds, quick action may be required. It is important to be present enough to put yourself in the right physical place.

In some ways, the pattern of working through the weather disasters of this year is a continuation of the response to the global pandemic. In my case, when I was quarantined at home with mild COVID-19 symptoms, I never missed a day of work. That reference experience makes it more believable that I can work through the disruptions from a tropical depression too, or whatever unexpected change might come my way next.

Both the good and the bad effects of working through a disaster will be seen more often, as disasters become more common and people gain more confidence in navigating them.

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