Most people do not act rationally when it comes to judging health or safety risks – they fear flying but drive everywhere; they get tested for breast cancer but not for heart disease; they think living in an earthquake zone is risky but jaywalk on the way to the office.
In one area, however, Americans seem to very aware of – or very blind to – risk. Chuck McCutcheon of Newhouse News Service reports that no one is doing much to prepare for a terrorist attack or a Katrina-sized natural disaster: “Some call it a waste of time. Others say they can’t afford it. Still others object to the Bush administration trying to tell them what to do.”
On the other hand, one group has learned something from Katrina – those concerned with the effect of disaster on pregnant mothers and newborns. The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood has organized to get public agencies to incorporate new mothers and babies into emergency planning.
Everyone else knows to stockpile a three-day supply of food, water and batteries. But they don’t. And who is to say whether they are indifferent or just aware of the low risk?