Oh my God, what was THAT!
Do you feel it? The earth is shaking!
Oh dear... That roaring noise? Is that the howl of a mighty tornado getting closer?
Whoa, is our plane losing altitude? Uh oh, I smell smoke--our building's on fire! Holy Cow, come look--the dam has burst and the floodwaters are rising!
Yikes, lets get out of heeeere!
Um, so--does anyone know where we're supposed to go? Did anyone happen to pay attention to that pamplet/lecture/drill/tv special that told us what we're supposed to do now?
So, like many other worrywarts who torture themselves by pondering Worst Case Scenarios, I spend precious little time actually preparing for them. (Fortunately, the Lobster is much more practical, so we have many of the bases covered).
But it was interesting to read a New York Times article about a new book, “The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why,” and discover how much one can increase one's chances of survival in a disaster with just a little preparation. And, of course, by not Acting Like a Freakin' Idiot. (Note: there is also an interesting interactive quiz, but if you wanna take it, do so before reading this post as there are SPOILERS below).
The book is by Amanda Ripley, a reporter for Time magazine who has covered, well, lots of disasters. You can also read this NPR summary and excerpt if you're curious.
1. Fire Drills are Not Just Designed to Torment You.
They actually really help! So don't skip 'em. "Your brain will perform best in a stressful situation if you have already put it through a few rehearsals. ...It’s important to get into the stairs and actually go down them. Your brain relies on that memory and responds to it much more quickly and fully than words."
2. Leave Your Shit Behind And Get Out--FAST.
Note: This is true even if you have to leave behind valuable items stashed in your belongings, like wallets or passport or even CUPCAKES!
Actually, as much as I would hate to part with important documents or tasty baked goods, doesn't this seem like kind of an obvious suggestion in a life-threatening disaster?
But the author noted that during emergencies "people often move surprisingly slowly and find reasons to delay evacuation. ...Even on burning planes, where passengers have only minutes to act before smoke becomes toxic, passengers routinely open overhead bins to retrieve their bags."
But being aware of this "gathering instinct" can help you. "You need to move quickly, but it won’t be your first impulse."
3. Before the plane takes off: Look for exits and read those Stupid Airline Safety Cards.
When was the last time you read one of those thingies in the seat back next to the barf bag? Or counted the number of rows to the nearest emergency exits? (I'm usually too busy engaging in important rituals designed to keep the plane from crashing in the first place. These rituals may involve closed eyes, tight clutching of the armrests, and possibly the sacrifice of a cheap domestic candy bar or a plastic cup full of Chateau de Crappo Airline Merlot).
Think there's no chance of surviving a plane crash anyway, so why bother?
Well, it says that approximately 60% of people involved in serious plane crashes do survive--and those tend to be the ones who know what to do and where to go to get themselves the heck out. So you're supposed to read the safety card every time so your brain is programmed to respond.
4. Panic is less of a problem than "group think," especially if you're with a leisurely group.
This was a surprise to me, as I am someone hard-wired to panic at the hint of any sort of emergency.
But most people become passive, not frantic, and tend to like to be ordered around. "People stick together, follow one another and are civilized and painfully slow during evacuations."
The excerpt was silent, however, as to the etiquette involved in rushing past these painfully slow civilized people and getting the hell out. If they're calmly making their way out at a snail's pace, down perhaps dozens of flights of stairs, how do you speed them up or get around them? Is sprinting, elbowing, shoving, cursing, cursing some more, and slapping considered bad form?
5. Prepare at Home, Too
Why save all that disaster preparation for work and for airplanes when you could be having tedious evacuation drills at home?
Sigh. You also gotta replace smoke detector batteries, have a plan for where to meet, keep emergency supplies on hand, blah blah blah.
What are the things people in actual disasters wished they'd had handy?
Fresh water, information sources, necessary medication, and cash. (The list doesn't even mention coffee, cookies, pizza or tequila. Who the heck did they ask???)
6. Know your neighbors
It's probably best if you don't routinely piss 'em off, either. In major disasters, it's usually a while until "outside" help is available. Close, friendly, non-homicidal neighbors may be a tremendous resource, both physically and psychologically, if something terrible happens and you're stuck for days waiting for help.
7. If a hurricane or flood hits, you're best off acting like a chick, not a dude.
More men perish in hurricanes and floods--not only because they spend more time outside, but because they take more time to evacuate, and are more likely to try to drive or walk through water. ("Honey, stop worrying, will ya?! You can see the water's only a few inches dee... ahhggggghhhh!)
Feeling paranoid now?
Here's another helpful article on how to save your own life in a variety of emergency situations.
Need some emergency-related cheering up?
Our friend the Anxious Exerciser reminded me about these hilarious interpretations of the ambiguous graphical warnings the Homeland Security Department uses for various emergencies, like, for example, nuclear blasts.
"After exposure to radiation, it is important to consider that you may have mutated to gigantic dimensions: watch your head."So, anyone else worry about disasters? Do you prepare for them?