Fight or flight. Most readers know the term. It’s alliterative and it rhymes. It names 2/3rds of the biological survival responses. The missing one, particularly appropriate for today, is “freeze.”
When faced with a threat, animals – which includes humans – can try to defeat the threat, or run away from it, or stop moving in the hope that the threat doesn’t notice or take an interest.
In Philadelphia, winter is a threat. Temperatures get low enough that anyone outside without proper clothing or shelter will die. We notice this primarily during “Code Blue” emergencies for the homeless – otherwise, we don’t give much thought to the danger from cold temperatures.
Snow, however, is a threat that preoccupies us.
In 2001, we chased a meteorologist out of town for mistakenly predicting, “The Storm of the Century,” which only resulted in a few inches in this area. He’s back in Philadelphia now, but he received death threats at the time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bolaris
We’ll probably soon hear news reports about violence related to shoveled-out parking spaces as lawn furniture and trash cans become territory markers. When a person puts significant effort into clearing a patch of asphalt, someone else who takes that patch is an invader. Conflicts can happen quickly.
Plan not to panic
Before the next storm, stock up on what you will need if you are stuck inside for a few days. This means prescription drugs, non-perishable foods, batteries, and old-fashioned paper books that will occupy your mind if you lose electricity. This will keep you out of the panicked crowds stockpiling bread, soup, and toilet paper.
Admit that there is danger
An SUV gives you better ground clearance and more chances to find traction but it doesn’t make you invincible. Four-wheel drive can keep you moving, but it doesn’t help you to stop. Stay home if you can.
Emergency responders are better equipped for snow but it slows police and ambulances, too, and it keeps them very busy. If you have an emergency and you call 911, help might take a long time to arrive.
Leave extra time and space
Heavy snow buries schedules. If your employer opens but your children’s school closes then you have to scramble.
The folks around you are stressed. This is not the time to make major changes or to add new demands.
Heavy snow restricts the “flight” option, leaving folks cornered and thus more likely to fight. Give people extra physical room and stay out of territory claimed by others.