BBC – How to survive a disaster

Rather than madness, or an animalistic stampede for the exits, it is often people’s disinclination to panic that puts them at higher risk…

The prevailing psychological explanation for these kinds of behaviours – passivity, mental paralysis or simply carrying on as normal in the face of a crisis – is that they are caused by a failure to adapt to a sudden change in the environment.

Survival involves goal-directed behaviour: you feel hungry, you look for food; you feel isolated, you seek companionship. Normally, this is straightforward (we know how to find food or companions).

But in a new, unfamiliar environment, particularly a stressful one such as a sinking ship or a burning aircraft, establishing survival goals – where the exit is and how to get to it – requires a lot more conscious effort…

But it’s a good idea to imagine that you will: to be aware that there are threats out there, and that you can prepare for them, without sliding into paranoia.

“All you have to do is ask yourself one simple question,” says Leach. “If something happens, what is my first response? Once you can answer that, everything else will fall into place. It’s that simple.”

via BBC – Future – How to survive a disaster.

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