Monday, February 11, 2013

How do you think you'd react?

I’ve never been tested by a life-or-death emergency, and I’ve often imagined how I would respond. What would I do, for instance, if a big earthquake struck right now? Would I panic? Would I die due to some careless mistake? Would I be clear-headed enough to find my way to safety? Would I help others?

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – And Why is a fascinating book by journalist Amanda Ripley, who interviewed survivors of a wide range of disasters, hoping to find what they did right (or wrong) when the crucial moment came.

The book is filled with the captivating stories of these survivors. Elia Zedeño walked down 73 flights of stairs in World Trade Center Tower 1 on September 11, 2001. Walter Bailey, teenage busboy, led the evacuation when the crowded Beverly Hills Supper Club in Cincinnati burned to the ground in 1977. Clay Violand played dead in his Intermediate French classroom during the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007.

Ripley discusses the complex ways the human body reacts in moments of terror. She discusses such commonly-reported experiences as dissociation, paralysis, and time distortion - as when a police officer, in the midst of a firefight, saw what he thought were beer cans floating slowly past his face. He later realized they were the shell casings ejected by the officer firing his weapon beside him.

The book argues that everyone can be better prepared, especially if they take the time to become more aware.  Find out where the exits are before you settle into your seat at a restaurant or movie theater.  Actually read the emergency card in the airplane’s seat pocket.

The Unthinkable is an interesting and thought-provoking book for anyone who, like me, wonders how they’ll perform if a disaster strikes.

And if you’re interested in learning more about how you can be effective in an emergency, Lincoln County offers regular Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trainings, free. For more information about CERT training, see or call 541-265-4199.

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