What is “Normalcy Bias”? And is it “Normal”?

I live 20 miles from a military base. All day yesterday, they were running artillery (bombs, shells, mortar, whatever) drills which caused a low rumbling thunder on a beautifully sunny day. I kept telling myself that, even though I’ve already lived in this house for almost 2 years and have never heard this before, AND despite the ludicrous happenings in our country’s governmental and private sectors, that this was/is an “okay” situation…minor example number one of normalcy bias….which leads itself directly to example number 2…

At 9 p.m. the very same night, I was basically dozing off with a magazine when I was awakened by what sounded like multiple gun shots! Prime example of Normalcy Bias coming right up……  I flew to my front door…magazine falling to the floor…flung my front door open, and ran right outside bare feet and in my pajamas in 40* rainy weather (mind you…my hands are now empty, not so much as a baseball bat in hand – or anything else more powerful for that matter). Oh, did I mention that my teenage son followed me right out the front door? I had heard “bombs” all day, I know of the stresses of our planet these days, and I heard “gun shots”.  So why didn’t I react in a way that could have increased my chances of remaining safe? (read this as…arm myself with protection or just simply stay inside my locked home until I could assess the situation.) That’s right….Normalcy Bias…or what I like to refer to as “Not in my backyard syndrome”. Your mind doesn’t really give you enough time to think through and react appropriately because there wouldn’t be anything inappropriate occurring…right?  Military, police, and other responders are training over and over again with the appropriate reactions to situations that wouldn’t seem normal to the general population. This ensures (usually) that their first reaction is the safest and most appropriate reaction for all who are involved. 

And to prove that all of this didn’t just do a number on my head…queue example number three! Once I had gotten outside, I most frustratingly discovered that my neighbors down the street had just decided that the Fourth of July should be held at 9p.m. on February 23rd. As I stood there and watched the annoying (not sparkly or patriotic in this instance) color display in the sky, my bewilderment turned to frustration. And then the phone rang. It was the neighbor behind me. His first sentence when I answered was,”Tammy, are you shooting down there?”. This would be ludicrous, because he has never seen or heard me shoot in my yard even in broad day light! His normalcy bias was “The least absurd situation that this could possibly be is my female neighbor is shooting rapidly at nothing in the dark, directly toward my farm…”. 

Normalcy bias is also the same reaction that steps in during car accidents and severe weather.  Like the day that a tornado/straight line wind came through our property and my husband and I both just stared at the kitchen window (that we couldn’t see out of because the rain was blowing straight at it) instead of running for cover in our home until it had passed! My chicken coop had actually succumb to the whole top of a tree falling right in our “line of sight”, but we never saw it….we just stood there… 

Even though we are doing our best to prepare our best to prepare our families for “anything”, we must also realize and recognize that we truly know what, or when,  that “anything” is going to be… 

The Survival Mom has posted an article on her blog that gives us 11 steps to help us work through this Normalcy Bias. As always, educate yourself, and teach you and your family the best you know how, because only you truly know you and your family…..