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Important Tips You Need to Know on How to Survive a Disaster

June 17, 2008 | 57,611 views

disaster, fireDisasters are part of the human condition, but survival is not just a product of luck. According to Amanda Ripley, author of the survival guide “The Unthinkable,” you can do far more than you think to improve your odds of preventing and surviving even the most horrendous of catastrophes.

The following stories are excerpted from Ripley’s excellent TIME article and include advice gleaned from people who survived disasters.

Avoid Freezing Up

On Sept. 28, 1994, the huge automobile ferry M.V. Estonia went down in the Baltic Sea. Kent Härstedt, now a member of Sweden‘s Parliament, was then a 29-year-old passenger.

That night he was hanging out in one of the ship‘s bars, with about 50 other passengers. Just after 1 a.m., the Estonia suddenly flipped on its side, hurling passengers about the bar. Härstedt managed to grab on to the iron bar railing and hold on, hanging above everyone else.

As Härstedt fought to make his way into a corridor, he noticed that some people were just sitting there. Entire groups seemed to be immobilized.

This happens in many disasters. Panic is rare. The bigger problem is that people do too little, too slowly. They sometimes shut down completely.

At 1:50 a.m., the Estonia sank. Moments before, Härstedt had jumped off the ship. He climbed onto a life raft and held on for five hours, until he was rescued.

We All Have Our Role to Play

On May 28, 1977, one of the deadliest fires in the U.S. broke out at a place called the Beverly Hills Supper Club, a labyrinth of dining rooms, ballrooms, fountains and gardens located 5 miles south of Cincinnati. There were nearly 3,000 people packed into the club on that Saturday night. The fire killed 167 of them.

Much of people’s actions were determined by whether they saw themselves as responsible or not. An estimated 60 percent of the employees tried to help in some way. By comparison, only 17 percent of the guests helped.

Servers warned their tables to leave. Hostesses evacuated people that they had seated. Cooks and busboys rushed to fight the fire. Some guests, however, continued celebrating. One man ordered a rum and Coke to go.

Darla McCollister got married earlier that evening at the gazebo in the garden. Still in her wedding dress, she ushered her guests outside. She felt responsible for them.

One Person, Like You, CAN Make a Difference

When the planes struck the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Rick Rescorla, the head of security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter at the World Trade Center, got Morgan Stanley employees to take responsibility for their survival -- which happened almost nowhere else that day in the Trade Center.

Rescorla had long felt it was foolish to rely on first responders to save his employees. Morgan Stanley‘s employees would need to take care of one another. He had ordered them not to listen to any instructions from the Port Authority in a real emergency, and run the entire company through frequent, surprise fire drills.

On the morning of 9/11, Rescorla heard an explosion and saw the other tower burning from his office window. A Port Authority official came over the P.A. system and urged people to stay at their desks. Rescorla grabbed his bullhorn, walkie-talkie and cell phone and began systematically ordering Morgan Stanley employees to get out. Well-drilled, they performed beautifully.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

These three tips from TIME writer Amanda Ripley are among the best I’ve heard when it comes to surviving a disaster. Most of you probably already have the basics down -- some extra food, water, flashlights and blankets -- but often when disaster really strikes it is more of a struggle with your own psyche to survive.

According to Ripley, nowadays nine out of 10 Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters, so take a moment to let these tips sink in … if you’re ever in a disaster:

1. Take action quickly -- avoid freezing up
2. Recognize the responsibility you have in saving yourself and others around you
3. Take responsibility for your survival

The TIME article above is actually an adaptation of Ripley’s book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes -- and Why, which is well worth reading if you want to really boost your survival IQ.

Listening to Your Intuition

It seems one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is simply the thought that a situation couldn’t possibly become a disaster. While the Titanic was sinking, some of the passengers reportedly continued to play cards. During the 9/11 attacks, how many people listened to the advice coming over the loudspeakers to stay at their desks, rather than try to get out? You may have experienced this firsthand, perhaps ignoring a tornado warning and going about your business, instead of taking cover.

In all of these cases, there was likely an uneasy feeling that popped up but was ignored. Yet, that feeling -- that intuition -- is one of your best survival tools if you learn how to listen to it.

It’s extremely important to follow your gut instincts anytime you’re in a threatening situation. This intuition is what some people call a “spiritual gift” or “inner knowing,” and you can use it to guide you in the right direction. The problem is that many people have trouble trusting their intuition, and instead rely on other external information when making a decision.

If you fall into this latter category, you can learn how to strengthen your intuition by following these simple exercises from Carol Tuttle.

1. Imagine you have a “third eye” situated in the center of your brow, above both eyes, just above the bridge of your nose. Place your middle finger on the bridge of your nose and push up a couple of inches, breathing deeply, imagining you are opening the eyelid, repeat the process 4 times.

2. Gently tap on this same point above the bridge of your nose while repeating, "I am knowing what is best for me, I honor that knowing, and I act on that knowing."

3. Stop justifying, defending and explaining yourself in your day-to-day conversations. Every time you do, you discount what you "know" to be true and right for you.

4. Stop using the phrase "I don't know." Every time you express that you shut down your intuition. Start using the phrase "I know what is right for me, inspiration flows to me easily and clearly." Say the positive statement even before you do know what is right. As you speak it and believe it, the knowing will form and manifest for you.

The idea is also not to focus so much on disaster that you’re constantly in a state of fear, just to have given some thought to how you’ll respond if you need to. After all, incessant worrying will get you nowhere, except stressed out and physically exhausted.

So while you do want to be prepared, both practically and psychologically, keep in mind that fear will cripple your soul and your health. For those of you who have trouble overcoming a fear of disaster, use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) along with this affirmation:

Even though I am afraid of (whatever you are afraid of) I choose to be calm and confident.

Fear is one of the easiest things that EFT can overcome, so do take advantage of it to protect your positive outlook and enjoyment of life. Interestingly, dealing with your fears is also one of Brian Tracy’s three rules for developing courage -- another necessity to help you survive in the face of disaster.

[+] Sources and References

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