A Power Outage Brings Out the Best in People

In case you haven’t read the news, Southern California and parts of Mexico were hit with a massive failure in the power grid yesterday afternoon.  While there are various estimates about the number of people who were without power, the average seems to be between 4-5 million people.  I was one of those individuals, and I have to say how surprised I was at how people reacted.

I now know that my emergency kit was probably not as prepared as I needed it to be.  We had flashlights, but dead batteries.  I previously had a Styrofoam cooler, but it must have been tossed out before we moved into our house.  Bottled water was non-existent.    Needless to say, I had to make a run to any stores that were open.

Unfortunately, for our largest flashlight, we needed one of those big 6 volt batteries that aren’t easily found in grocery stores.  Luckily, there was a Home Depot running on backup generators right by my house.  It was packed with people, but no one seemed to be panicking.  In fact, everyone seemed to be friendly and helpful towards one another.    We bought the needed batteries, along with a small Toy Story flashlight for my 5 year-old daughter.  It was dark outside after we finished checking out.  As we were walking through the dark parking lot, a man was standing by the sidewalk using his flashlight so people wouldn’t trip over the step.  He wasn’t even a Home Depot employee, but instead a Good Samaritan. 

We tried going to the local Ralphs grocery store, but they were only letting a limited amount of people in the store at a time, most-likely to avoid a panicked mob in case items became scarce.  We then headed over to an Albertsons grocery store which was letting all customers in at once.  All the bottled water was gone from the bottom shelves, but I saw individuals helping one another get down the large cases of bottled water.  In of everyone grabbing what they needed to rush off, they were staying to assist others. 

People were courteous in the checkout line, with two individuals letting us pass in front of them because we had fewer items than they did.  Every checkout line was open, and every line had at least 10 customers waiting to check out.  I could tell our cashier was a little overwhelmed, but she seemed cheerful, as if this was one of the best days of her life. 

It’s interesting to compare real life to television or the movies.  In the fictional world, you see people panic and loot at the first sign of a wide-spread emergency.  What I saw last night was a community of individuals coming together to support one another.  It didn’t feel like a real emergency to me, even though I know it was a serious situation.

How you react in these types of situations affects how everyone else reacts around you.  Think about working on a project team.  What happens when that major project your group has been working on for months hits a roadblock?  Do you panic and lose your cool?  What if one of your other team members did that?  How would you react to their stress levels reaching a boiling point?

Instead, do you come together as a group to work through the problem?  Which one of these scenarios will provide you with the best outcome in the fastest amount of time? 

Before you go to react in a high-stress situation, think about how you might react, or rather, how others will perceive your reaction.

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