July 16, 2017

“Invariably over 50% of the population ... go down to the sea to watch the tsunami,”

Survival is less about heroic actions than avoiding mindless mistakes.

What not to do in a disaster

“Survival training isn’t so much about training people what to do – you’re mostly training them not to do certain things that they would normally think to do,” says John Leach, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth who survived the King’s Cross fire disaster in 1987. He estimates that in a crisis, 80-90% of people respond inappropriately. Footage of the Japanese earthquake in 2011 showed people risking their lives while rushing to save bottles of alcohol from smashing in a supermarket. And when a plane caught fire at an airport in Denver earlier this year, evacuating passengers lingered by the plane to watch the flames and take selfies.

If faced with a life-threatening scenario, what behaviors should you do your best to avoid?
1. Freezing.  When we’re paralyzed with fear the brain is actively putting on the brakes. As adrenaline surges through the body and our muscles tense, the primitive “little brain” at the base of our necks sends a signal to keep us rooted to the spot....
2. Inability to think. Even at the best of times, our brains are disconcertingly slow – while disasters are rapid. ...
3. Tunnel vision....  A typical response to disaster is so-called “perseveration” – attempting to solve a problem in a single way, again and again and again, regardless of the results.
4. Staying stuck in a routine....“The number of people who have been killed going back to get their wallet from their house, or checking if they’ve left the oven on…”
5. Denial...“Invariably over 50% of the population do it, they go down to the sea to watch the tsunami,”...Denial usually happens for two reasons; either because they fail to interpret the situation as dangerous, or because they simply don’t want to. The latter is extremely common in the event of a wildfire, since often evacuating your home means consigning it to ruin.

What you SHOULD do in a disaster
Surviving a natural disaster is about having a plan. “If you know what you’re doing in advance and you start early, you can usually get away from a tsunami".....  Preparation, acting fast, busting routines and avoiding denial may all be ways to live a bit longer in worst-case scenarios – but as Larson’s experiences suggests, sometimes you need a good dose of luck too.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 16, 2017 9:19 AM | Permalink