During the Y2K scare, many otherwise-levelheaded people stockpiled a whole lot of food and water in their basements, just in case. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Let's face it: Humans have a long history of reacting in wildly inappropriate ways to the threats around us.

Many of us remember the Y2K panic and overreactions leading up to the year 2000, with many predicting apocalyptic scenarios like planes falling out of the sky, power plants shutting down and even a potential nuclear war. Was everyone buying into the hype? No. But let's just say I knew more than one otherwise-levelheaded person who stockpiled a whole lot of food and water in their basement just in case.

Related: Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

BenefitsPRO editor in chief Paul Wilson BenefitsPRO editor-in-chief Paul Wilson muses over our country's (and industry's) range of over- and underreactions to threats.

I recently traveled to an industry conference amidst news of the growing threat of coronavirus. I'll be the first to admit that I was a little more liberal than usual with the hand sanitizer, but I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the numerous people I saw walking around in flimsy face masks, despite numerous reports that they're not effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVD-19. Rather than listening to the experts, many continue to stampede to the nearest Home Depot to stock up anyway, to the point that the U.S. Surgeon General recently tweeted: "STOP BUYING MASKS!"

Having lived through a lifetime of Colorado blizzards (and "blizzards") I can't say I'm shocked to hear people are also panic-buying everything from mac and cheese, rice and water to cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer, leaving many store shelves completely barren.

On the flip side, there have been many examples of people stubbornly refusing to evacuate hurricane areas in the face of clear evidence and official warnings, thereby putting their own lives, as well as those of rescue and emergency crews, in danger.

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We never seem to learn, do we? Just a thought, but maybe we should settle down, remain vigilant and listen to scientists and other experts when a threat arises (and no, that doesn't include certain "hunches" about the validity of the death rate).

In our industry, we're no strangers to potential threats (or unsuitable reactions). Anyone remember the panicked stampede of brokers heading for the exit before the ink dried on the ACA?

The next major test could very well be the disruption of outside forces like Amazon's Haven venture. And as Mick Rodgers writes in "The Amazon Trap" (page 16), despite the enormous amount of attention and ink spent on the topic, it's quite possible that the industry, including major carriers, could be underestimating how quickly drastic changes are coming. It's not time to pack up your desk and start job searching on LinkedIn, but there is a whole list of very practical and logical strategies you can implement to prepare for what's next.

And no, none of them involve a mask.

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.