-By Jess Wade, HOA Board member
Tips for household emergencies, neighborhood disasters and other points of distress – improving your disaster personality:
It was a dark and stormy night on the Baltic Sea, September 28, 1994, and aboard the massive automobile ferry M.V. Estonia, 989 passengers were either asleep or closing down the bar. It was shortly after 1:00a.m. when, suddenly, the Estonia listed 30 degrees starboard. The giant bow door to the car deck had somehow unlocked and the sea gushed in. Less than 30 minutes later, the Estonia vanished, sinking upside down into the sea. Only 137 people survived.
Delta Air Lines Flight 191 was a regularly scheduled flight into DFW from Fort Lauderdale. On August 2, 1985, the jumbo jet encountered a thunderstorm on approach north of runway L-17. At just after 6:00p.m. the aircraft was literally pushed downward by a microburst and struck the ground over a mile short of the runway. It hit a car crossing Hwy. 114 and then collided with two large water tanks before disintegrating. The wind shear-induced crash killed 137 people and injured 28 others, all of whom were seated near the tail section.
These are just two of the hundreds of tragic stories we can read online. They make me think about how I would respond if caught up in a mass casualty event. Logic tells us that disaster can happen to ordinary people like you and me perhaps when we least expect. And it begs the question: Is there, really, anything we can do about it?
Expected or not, there are ways each of us can improve our “Disaster Personality.” You may already have developed your own, but here are five things* all of us can do now to improve our chances of survival in a disastrous situation:
- Attitude – avoid the victimization trap (“if it happens, there’s nothing I can do”) and teach yourself to be proactive. Believe that you do have a positive influence over events. Develop this attitude by finding purpose in life’s turmoil and learn from both positive and negative experiences you encounter daily.
- Knowledge – allow yourself to be correctly informed. As an example, it makes sense to pay attention to in-flight safety briefings which serve to sharpen the mind at the point of possible danger. This willupdate the brain’s computer program on what you need to do in the event of an emergency. By the way, statistically most serious plane accidents are survivable!
- Anxiety level – learn to keep it under control with coping devices such as controlled, rhythmic breathing. This is important in order to help your brain choose the right course of action under extreme stress. Studies have shown that following a sudden change of events, people oftentimes “freeze up” as many did that night on the Estonia. According to survivors, some passengers became immobilized instead of taking immediate action such as running to available lifeboats.
- Body weight – take it seriously. When it’s time to move quickly, go up or down stairs or through narrowed spaces, physical strength and body agility can improve your chances for survival. Know where the exits are in relation to your office, hotel room or seat on the plane. Wherever there is fire or an explosion, lights may not be working and hallways may be filled with dense, acrid smoke. Escape routes may be partially blocked. The ability to get out fast could be lifesaving.
- Training – practice will improve your performance…especially when under duress. Train your brain and your muscles now and they will perform better when you must make quick and accurate decisions.
*Excerpted and edited from “How to Survive a Disaster” by Amanda Ripley, TIME Magazine, June 9, 2008. Also by Amanda Ripley: The Unthinkable, an in-depth look at human behavior under extreme pressure.
“Tips for household emergencies and neighborhood disasters” is submitted quarterly to the Town Creek Crier by HOA board member, Jess Wade. Now retired, Jess served from 2005 to 2016 as Coordinator for the Dallas County Medical Reserve Corps, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Bioterrorism Division of the Dallas County Department of Health & Human Services.