Over the past few days, I’ve been asking my colleagues (on Twitter and in person) for common disaster myths they’ve encountered. I think I’ll start a series of disaster myth-busting blog posts in which I dissect some of the myths out there in regards to disasters, FEMA, and other organizations active in disasters.

Here is a short list of disaster myths (please feel free to comment to add more!).

  1. Disasters bring out the worst in society (also addressing “mass panic”)
  2. Disaster response and recovery is solely a governmental responsibility
  3. Damages from an improvised nuclear device (IND) are so catastrophic, there’s no use in preparing for it.
  4. Using the “Triangle of Life” concept during an earthquake is safer than the “duck, cover, and hold on” method.
  5. BlackBerry PIN-to-PIN messages are more resilient than other carriers’ SMS or text messages.
  6. Opening windows before a tornado strikes will equalize the pressure inside of the house and prevent more extensive damages or roof failure.
  7. Hiding underneath a highway overpass is a safe location during a tornado.
  8. FEMA will pay for any damages after any disaster
  9. Wireless Priority Service (WPS) / Government Emergency Telephone System (GETS) cards will override any non-prioritized callers.
  10. FEMA is a bloated, bureaucratic agency that is slow to respond and ends up taking over disaster operations from the local-level agencies.
  11. The government will be able to assist me immediately after a disaster.
  12. The US military can always be called in to provide disaster relief.

I’m extremely grateful for the contributions/suggestions by Shannon Buckland, Patrice Cloutier, Bryan Damis, Jim Garrow, Alisha Griswold, R. Kelzenberg, Steven Polunsky, and Rick Russotti.