Tag Archives: motivation

…meanwile… February is here and the UK is finally experiencing winter

.. and this blog is (slowly) kicking back into life. My apologies for the long intermission but as I try to walk my talk as much as possible I had to take care of business and my own personal resilience first. Too many things came together over this winter period so this blog sadly had to wait: my degree course was drawing to a close, so long and tough exams had to be sat, we moved house with the family and are now doing so also for the business which needs much larger premises – all running alongside regular operations. Just after New Year I finally got away for a week to recharge my own batteries.

Resilience top-up

If you wonder what a ‘resilience-top-up’ looks like for me, here is my ‘quick-fix’ recipe:

source: https://warrenlawson.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/crocus-snow.jpg

    • one week away alone at a nice but not extravagant place no longer than 5 hours travel away
    • long medidative walks, three to four hours every day no matter what the weather
    • eat good food (lots of seafood in my case)
    • read good books – for a deeper perspective I chose Stephen Bachelor’s Confession of a Buddhist Atheist and as a counterpoint that would make me laugh by comparing experiences I took along Notes from a small Island by Byll Bryson (can highly recommend both)
    • daily steam, sauna (I plug in good music)
    • lots of nettle tea (you may laugh but I swear by it)
    • … and for the rest just quiet and lots of naps and sleep

Boring? I agree, I could not stand it myself for more than 10 days tops but a week is bliss and anything less than 5 days simply does not do the trick. I came back feeling detangled, clear and fresh again, with lots of positive energy to take forward. It is much needed as major changes are afoot for all of us.

2014 has been confirmed by the Met Office as the warmest year on record which undoubtedly will impact this island nation in many ways – and then there is Taleb’s concept of Black Swan events.

Resilience, Emergency- and Disaster Preparedness as well as Business Continuity are no longer simply buzz words or abstract concepts.

They are being embraced in a very practical way by more and more people – one of many reasons why we are moving to larger premises in west London. Everybody at evaQ8 is hugely looking forward to operating out of much bigger and brighter office and warehouse space that enables us to provide even better services and products for preparedness and businesscontinuity. If you follow us on twitter or facebook you’ll be the first to see updates and pictures. For now, please heed the Met Office alerts, stay warm and keep supplied.


Take care and have a safe week. Enjoy the snow and crisp winter air.

 

I’ll be back shortly with more on preparedness and powercuts and how the right kinds of role models are hugely important for resilience, both personal and business.

Monika

 
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Altruism and Resilience – a crucial yet complex link and why it pays to be kind

updated 10/06/2017

This week saw yet another round of London tube strikes resulting in transport misery for thousands. More are planned next week and to boot there are Firefighter strikes this weekend.

As I set out mostly on foot these last couple of days I noticed both the short-tempered rudeness and hostility of some but even more so the many acts of random kindness of complete strangers that conveyed a deep sense of unselfish solidarity: we’re all in this together – we might just as well make it more tolerable for one another.
Broken chainIt all got me thinking about the crucial and complex link of altruism and resilience and how this connects up to disaster preparedness – say, when – perhaps because of a major incident – we all may have to grapple with the consequences of transport and supply disruptions on a very different scale for real.

Doing a bit of background reading what struck me immediately is the large amount of evidence that supports my humanistically inclined belief of “help others so that they in turn may help you for you cannot possibly do it all on your own”. To many this may sound rather counter intuitive. After all, simply picture a few survivors stranded on an island with limited resources – the toughest and fittest one survives, right? Well perhaps not but we may soon get some real insight and I for one can hardly wait to see Bear Gryll’s new series “The Island” that starts this Monday, 5th May on Channel 4 at 9pm.

In the meantime, however, let us be a little bit less dramatic and consider that survival is both short – and long-term and take a look at how…

Altruism moderates Life Stresses and predicts your Health Status

Altruism, also called social interest, is associated with better life adjustment, better marital adjustment and satisfaction, less hopelessness and depression overall. Being interested in and committed to wide social networks helps you to moderate stress to such an extent that it becomes a good predictor of your physical health status.

MIT researchers Schwartz and colleagues who made these findings also think that the links between social interest, better mental resilience and reduced stress are in turn related to augmented self-confidence, an increased ability to be able to reframe one’s own experience and perceive greater meaning in life. Yet more evidence comes from the influential Hawaiian longitudinal study I mentioned in my earlier Nature-Nurture post which found that children who helped others in a meaningful way (i.e. assisting a family member, neighbour or some other community member) were the most likely to lead successful lives as adults. In short…

Altruism is intrinsic, reciprocal, fosters Resilience – AND IT PAYS !

A large amount of scientific evidence from infant research, experimental psychology and ethology (study of animal behaviour) suggests that altruism has had an important influence on behaviour throughout history and has real survival value. Altruism represents an interesting and complex interaction of environmental and genetic influences – nature as well as nurture, a healthy dose of both. For example, research amongst some South American native tribes revealed that those individuals who produce and share more food than average are rewarded during times of hardship. This discovery led the well-known psychiatrist Yakov Shapiro to propose that this reciprocal altruism has many benefits and rewards:

  • enhanced reputation and power – leading to
  • greater status, esteem and influence within the community – resulting in
  • privileged access to resources when the community faces catastrophic stress

Another author, Michael Shermer, further supports these evolutionary origins of our moral sense commenting that as a species of social primates we have evolved a deep sense of right and wrong. We reward reciprocity and cooperation and find ways to ‘punish’ selfishness and free riding. This emotional ‘barometer’ may be crucial and a hallmark of how resilient people wrestle with moral dilemmas. Importantly, resilient people are perhaps better able to make difficult moral decisions based on a more balanced approach of both reason and emotion.

Resilient people make more Balanced Decisions ~ What would YOU do?
The classic “runaway trolley” dilemma – Come and Have a Go !

If you can’t see the embedded video – here is the link to YouTube

First Scenario:

cognitivephilosophy.net

Imagine yourself watching a runaway trolley roll down a track towards five strangers who would be killed if the trolley struck them. You have the ability to flip a switch and divert the trolley to another track where just one stranger is standing. If you flip the switch, one person will be killed instead of five. What would you do?

In Joshua Greene’s famous fMRI study most participants said that it was morally right to flip the switch.

 

Second scenario:

cognitivephilosophy.net

Now imagine standing on a footbridge next to a stranger and that five people are trapped below in the path of the same oncoming runaway trolley. Pushing the stranger onto the track is the only way to save the other five people. What would you do? The end result of the two options are identical (one person dies and five survive) yet most of Greene’s participants said they would refuse to push the stranger. In terms of cognitive psychology, the second scenario involves far more emotional processing than the first which is shown in the fMRI scan by greater activation of the limbic brain regions – the same areas that activate during fear, another rather important aspect when considering resilience as discussed in my previous post “Understanding Fear”.

So, what has Moral Reasoning to do with Resilience? Choices are complex !

Choices in a real Emergency or Disaster situation more often than not involve dilemmas much tougher than the above trolley example. Sometimes there simply are no “right” or “better” choices; sometimes there are no good choices at all. Understandably, many a survivor is later haunted by memories and questions of “what else could I have done?” It is important to acknowledge that in some situations there may be no optimal moral choice and that resilience is simply retaining one’s sanity after the extreme hardship has passed. And that requires moral courage.

The Good News: you can learn Moral Reasoning and Moral Courage !

Gus Lee a former corporate whistle-blower and later US Senate ethics investigator writes in his book on Leadership: “…courage is not something with which we are born… courage is a learned quality, an acquirable set of skills, a practiced competence. It is like boxing except it is easier, smells better and causes fewer nosebleeds.”

Where do you begin learning Moral Courage? As easy as 1 – 2 – 3 and right at your doorstep

The Guardian

First, following Rushworth Kidder’s three steps process, you must make an honest self-assessment. We all have core values and beliefs. What are they? Which are the most important? Are you living by these principles and values? Are you falling short and where? Are you motivated to change and can you do so?

Second, take all these points and discuss them with a highly principled person you admire. Such discussions can help you to recognize and analyse situations where your actions have moral implications. It also allows you to honestly and openly explore and evaluate the risks and dangers involved in defending your core values.

Third, practise your moral values and try to uphold them in challenging situations. Stay vigilant because it’s easy to relax your values, make compromises and take short cuts. By doing again and again what you know to be right and evaluating that against the reactions of the people that matter to you in your communities you will build a strong moral compass and moral courage.

This is nothing new really for Aristotle already wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics:

“We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts”

Practise makes Perfect – Simple! And where and when do we do all this? Where better than right at our doorstep in everyday life through many acts of random kindness aka altruism; hopefully reciprocal but one cannot always be greedy – besides, altruism and reciprocity work much better on a ‘grand’ scale when freed from simplistic one to one constraints. It all goes towards making our shared realities on planet earth just this much more tolerable no matter what modern life – and the forces of nature – throw at us.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato

Wishing you a happy Bank Holiday weekend full of Moral Courage and plenty of Altruism to continue building your ever increasing Resilience !

Monika

You might also be interested in the TED talk on altruism by Matthieu Ricard


Thank you for sharing.

 

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References:

Resilience – Understanding Fear

TED recently published a captivating talk by (now retired) astronaut Chris Hadfield. You might remember him from his unforgettable “Space Oddity” with over 21 million views on You Tube. He describes in vivid detail how his extensive training helped him cope with the complexity, sheer pressure as well as dangerous and terrifying situations not only during his space missions but also in life.

This high-flying astronaut’s totally down-to-earth approach made me realize what a brilliant example Chris makes for Resilience. It got me thinking just how immensely powerful training is – physical as well as mental – in taking control of what otherwise are ‘hard-wired’ biological responses (fight, flight, freeze).

What is fear?

I think we can agree that it is a powerful emotional force that spans a particularly unpleasant inner spectrum ranging from the first stirrings of unease or apprehension to eventually blind terror all accompanied by a large range of physical symptoms. Taking a temperature reading along any imaginary fear barometer for both physical and mental states is a highly subjective affair and you can find lots of free resources on the web if you wish to delve into this further. More importantly is the realization that fear is one giant paradox for it is both real and fantasy – but with very real consequences.

Fear – what Fear? …. a Quizz

You might recognize the following quotes. Go ahead and have a bit of fun: treat them like a quiz. The footnotes will tell you if you got them right.

Fear is not real, it’s a product of the thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.” 1

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 2

Mindfulness is running straight into reality. It does not insulate you from the pain of life – rather, it allows you to delve so deep into life that you pierce the pain barrier and go beyond suffering.” 3

So, what do you think?

Although these quotes come from three very different corners of reality past and present I think they all capture the fear paradox really well.
One further point is also very important I think, especially with the general emphasis tending to value conquering or transcending fear – and that is the understanding and embracing that fear is only human.

Feeling Fear is only Human – Not a Sign of Weakness

Paul KleeFeeling fear is inevitable.

Everybody will feel aspects of the fear spectrum at some time. Fears are thoroughly human emotions. You notice that I’m purposefully using the plural here – for being able to differentiate where on the ‘barometer’ you are when and for how long with what kind of fear is the very first step in taking control.

Get to know your fears and name them.

Fear is normal – the Difference between Fear and Panic is Control

If you learn to control apprehensions and fears you can turn them into assets, treat them like a guide that can help you focus. Fears are normal.

The difference between fear and panic is control.

Fear does not have to shut you down. It can wake you up.

Fear can guide you because you can learn to recognize and respect it. Through training you acquire expertise that will kick in for you should things go wrong where fear suddenly might explodes onto the scene. There might even be an app for that 😉

But how do I go about learning to control fear?

Sure, this is all very well I hear you say, but what kind of training? I can’t train for everything. Besides, my life is kind of just ‘normal’ so what’s the point?

I don’t want to sound like a certain ad but “every little helps” really does apply here – especially if you do a little bit a lot of times. And forming a new habit so to speak does not have to be boring.

Learning to Control Fear is simply Amazing

Go play, have fun – in the real world out there and away from virtual reality screens at least 90% of the time. Try completely new activities – and get good at them. Any new skill or trick you add to your toolbox will come in handy at some time in some way.

Then, at the end of your fun activity where you’ve focused both your mental and physical resources, relax. Well, not quite that fast for here lies another paradox. Relax does not simply mean letting go, tune out or turn off. That would be closer to sleep. No,

I mean learn to relax as in mindfulness training and meditation – which is really just another activity only of a very different nature, even if it sounds a bit alien at first. There are many different approaches out there and so you’re bound to find one that’s just right for you. In the end it will help you further hone your mental focus and resources – which, naturally, adds greatly to your personal resilience; for “normal” life has it’s way of suddenly and quite unexpectedly ceasing to be simply be just “normal” – whatever that means to you now that you’re beginning to be in charge of your fears.

Monika


Thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Emergency Preparedness.

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

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  • 1 Will Smith in the 2013 Movie ‘After Earth
  • 2 Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)
  • 3 Banthe H. Gunaranta, Buddhist Monk (year unknown)
  • also see:

 

Optimism and Resilience: how to achieve Realistic Confidence in the face of Crisis

updated June 2017

We’ve just made our own blog a lot more ‘resilient’ by switching to WordPress hence the delay in putting new articles up. Sorry, but I’m sure you understand and thanks for coming back to share with me more on the topic.

In my last post I wrote about the importance of open public discussions about climate change. Importantly, how our own strong emotions, including pain and fear affect what and how we talk to each another. Such discussions are initially quite polarised or ‘raw’ in the sense that they reflect strong feelings that need to be witnessed in the right context without being misunderstood. Those that put a positive spin on their comments trying to lift the paralyzing gloom and doom are often yelled down by accusations of being blind or worse, being idiots, lazy and apathetic. This of course does not help either.

Finding the right kind of optimism is the real challenge here. Optimism is not just one thing. It is complex and means different things to different people. Optimism is interesting because it comes in different flavours and shades. Contrary to popular belief, ‘resilient’ optimists do not view the world simply through rose-tinted-glasses. Resilient optimists acquire a certain kind or flavour of ‘realistic optimism’ that is just right – the ‘magic’ Goldilocks principle: just right.

To successfully deal with any crisis, realistic optimism serves as the fuel that ignites resilience, providing the very energy so sorely needed to deal with it all, physically, mentally and emotionally. Crises are long and difficult processes and something we all have to learn to cope with at some point in our lives – especially now as we are waking up to an ever more challenging world; one, where we must prepare for a world that’s more than 2° C warmer.

So, how can we become resilient optimists?

First, we need to know the difference. Psychologist Sandra Schneiderexplains that blind optimism is different from realistic optimism in that the blind variety focuses on simply feeling good in the now while the realistic approach takes a wider view with a problem solving stance which goes on to improving our chances to negotiate our changing environments successfully. Does that mean both are mutually exclusive, we have to choose between realist or optimist? Not necessarily – the good news is that there is a way of having both! Desired beliefs are a tremendous force we can harness despite them being a form of self-deception so long as we don’t get lost or distracted by them and have timely, appropriate reality checks in place – which is of course easier said than done! What works for me might not necessarily work for you. Everyone must develop their own brand of optimism and that is hard work and requires a lot of self-reflection as well as the capacity to imagine different kinds of shared futures.

Read that last sentence again. There! That is exactly where the real power lies in my view and it is rooted in the now. Now – as in literally right now – this power is yours. Agreed, now I’m beginning to sound a bit like Yoda but I kid you not: the force really is with you! Thanks to a bunch of incredibly fortunate incidences a long time ago human brains evolved and now we have the awesome power of time travel. You have the power to imagine a better future.

So, right now: what does that mean to you? And no, I don’t mean ‘more stuff’, we’re not squirrels. What could your future really mean to you … you and your friends… you and your friends and your family? Try bigger. You and your community, village and town? Spin it along, elaborate, play with it, have some fun. How would you really like your future to be – and that of your kids. Never mind if you don’t have any right now just imagine you did (if you don’t like kids right now then… oh well, imagine that you do…)

Ok, can you see it? If you really work at it you can even touch it and smell it, really feel it but that takes some practice.

Now – slowly, be gentle. Come back to the present.

Take stock, but keep your wonderful ‘future bubble’ alive.

Now compare –  qualitatively compare: where do you stand now, what resources and abilities do you actually have – you probably have a lot more than you at first can think of so keep a running list. What can you acquire? Not all in one go of course but you can work at it every day. Little by little.

Just keep that future alive and bright in your mind and continue moving towards it. And since you cannot do it all alone you’ll have to count on your friends, family and neighbours – starting with your next-door neighbour to eventually widen and broaden your reach across all your communities. Now for just one minute, imagine we would be all doing that, most of the time in a kind and understanding way creating a shared resilient future for all “just right”. Source https://www.impsandmonsters.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Just-Right_800.jpg Wishing you an imaginative and inspiring weekend, and apologies if the above feels a bit like a roller-coast ride; as a mental agility exercise it was meant to be and hopefully also entertaining, thought- and action provoking. Monika thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Emergency Preparedness!

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

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Who moved my cheese? Resilience in a fast changing world

updated 05/2016

Change is the only constant - keep moving with the cheese, stay resilient

Change is the only constant – keep moving with the cheese, stay resilient

It’s hard to believe I am in the same country: my view out of the window to a bright London afternoon seems a world away from the news images on my computer screen and TV. Storm and flooding misery continues unabated just three hours travel away. Strangley removed seems the fading memory of our own 24 hour power outage between Christmas and New Year while many areas suffered that fate for a staggering 10 days of blackouts. It all reminds me just how easy it is for us all to move on and forget, to settle snugly once more into our own comfortable and regular bubbles until we’re immediately and personally confronted with disruption.

Lives are so full and busy that we rarely can take time out as it is and if you do who wants to consider ‘uncomfortable’ situations and plan for the exceptional? After all and thankfully, these events are rare. And they usually happen to other people? Right? So back to our regular bubble… moving right on…..and with that our mental agility is taking another comfortable snooze.
Not getting stuck in complacency is an important aspect of mental agility and that is one of the key areas of resilience.

Have you come across a brilliant little book by Spencer Johnson titled “Who Moved My Cheese?” Published in 1998 it remains one of the best-selling business books that motivates people to embrace change. The story is a parable of two mice and two ‘littlepeople’ during their hunt for cheese (aka happiness, success) and culminates in some hard earned wisdom:

  • Change Happens – or They Keep Moving The Cheese
  • Anticipate Change – or Get Ready For The Cheese To Move
  • Monitor Change – or Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
  • Adapt To Change Quickly or The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
  • Change – Move With The Cheese
  • Enjoy Change! Savour The Adventure and Enjoy the Taste of New Cheese!
  • Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again – The Cheese keeps moving

But why bother you ask. Surely with the wettest January on record this will be it … well, perhaps not. I join the BBC in stating “…before you think it’s game over for cold and snow this winter, don’t forget how cold it was last spring. Two consecutive cold springs would surely stretch belief but if we’ve learned one thing about our weather it’s to expect the unexpected.”
Or borrowing from Spencer Johnson one last time: “…continue to smell and move with the cheese”.

And – before I go, just a quick mention: this week we have uploaded our own ‘motivational’ video “Dare to think…..” (or, the proper title being Survival – how to make your own Go Bag and Emergency Kit). Check it out.  [update 05/2016 new ‘Preparedness UK’ video which you can see at the Preparedness Hub]

Have a great week – and ejnoy your cheese!

Monika


Thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Resilience and Emergency Preparedness

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!
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Resilience – what it is and how it connects to crazy weather

Resilience - thriving despite difficulties; Resilient Self - Resilienct Relationships - Resilient Problem Solving

Resilience – thriving despite difficulties; Resilient Self – Resilienct Relationships – Resilient Problem Solving

Another crazy weather week! Amazing pictures from the US throughout the week, especially the frozen Niagara Falls and headlines of – literally – Hell freezing over; Hell Michigan that is. Meanwhile more flood misery with heavy rains and violent tidal surges affected thousands here in the UK, causing widespread damage and much personal pain… and more is yet to come we’re being told.

With all this gloom and controversies around flood prevention measures running high it is interesting to note that the Guardian ran an article on how floods are not all uniformly bad, how there is a silver lining (even if somewhat thin) to be had in all of this. I’d like to pick up on this at the close of this week.

Finding the positive side in any situation, no matter how grim and hopeless it might at first appear, is a huge skill and a massively important part of what resilience means. And that, increasingly, is what it’s all about. But what exactly does ‘resilience’ mean? One definition holds that ‘resilience’ is the capacity to cope effectively in stressful situations or adversity. There are a number of core capacities that play role and these are, according to the APA1:

  • (a) self-awareness: identifying one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, and patterns in each that are counterproductive
  • (b) self-regulation: the ability to regulate impulses, thinking, emotions, and behaviours to achieve goals, as well as the willingness and ability to express emotions;
  • (c) optimism: noticing the goodness in self and others, identifying what is controllable, remaining wedded to reality, and challenging counterproductive beliefs
  • (d) mental agility: thinking flexibly and accurately, perspective taking, and willingness to try new strategies
  • (e) character strengths: identifying the top strengths in oneself and others, relying on one’s strengths to overcome challenges and meet goals, and cultivating a strength approach in one’s group; and
  • (f) connection: building strong relationships through positive and effective communication, empathy, willingness to ask for help, and willingness to offer help

That’s a lot – complex and interesting stuff! Plenty of material there for me to write about in small doses as we go into this near year talking about Emergency Preparedness and Resilience.
You will have noticed that I’ve highlighted ‘OPTIMISM’ in the above list and will have read its description – a very far cry from the rose-tinted and rather blind optimism you might have come across elsewhere. The aim here is not to gloss over reality but rather a bit of a case of thorough #SherlockLives -style analysis and a much wider appraisal that eventually will help towards finding new strength and direction.

So, back to the Guardian and the good side of our #UKFloods. I encourage you read the full article but in a nutshell, here it is:

  • UK wind industry had its best-ever period, setting daily, weekly and monthly records
  • heavy rains across Britain have left the water supply industry smiling, reservoirs are full
  • environment: floods and storms are important natural phenomena that help the natural environment, i.e. clear clean river gravels of silt, encouraging fish migration; some plants depend on strong winds to spread their seeds further afield…
  • wildlife: burrowing animals breed best when soggy ground makes their holes easy to dig; record numbers of wading birds..

And for us? The wild weather has been an excellent stick for environment groups and scientists to beat government with as well as raise awareness generally. Charles Tucker, chair of the National Flood Forum, nicely summed it up: “With joined-up thinking, you invest in communities to develop resilience and prepare for future flooding. You invest in a national effort, requiring the agencies responsible for flood risk management to work with local people, equipping them to tackle local flooding problems. You give local communities the tools to find solutions themselves.” Highlights by me.

In the end, it’s also all up to us – individually as well as part of a community! Have a great weekend.

Monika

1APA – American Psychological Association


Thank you for sharing and helping raise awareness for Emergency Preparedness.

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!
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