We live in a time of uncertainty. That is an unfortunate and true fact that we cannot escape. Whether it be idealised people with violent tendencies, the increased risk of accidental situations or mother nature herself; unknown risk is something that each of us tackle in our everyday lives. There are however, certain things that every person should know if faced with a disaster, an emergency situation or something unexpected and potentially life threatening. In themselves these five tips will help you with preparedness when you need it most, and they may not be the things you expect.
Know that you Don’t Know
If I said to expect the unexpected you’d laugh. Mainly because we live in a time where the unexpected is almost a given. Our modern world has adapted to those events so well, with the evolution of super sensitive alarm systems that give us very early warnings of fire and intruders. Additionally, the risk to global security has increased our awareness of the truly evil acts that people are willing to commit in the name of their cause. All of these things in a way have desensitised us to risk. Because we expect it, we don’t.
We are at a turning point in our reactive states as human beings and the reality is that we are sometimes forced into reactions by our environment, through sheer mass of people or by our instincts that have been ingrained for thousands of years.
I have first hand experience of people’s reactions in emergency situations that most people could not comprehend. Reactions that are built around our morality and values but inevitably cause us to be hurt:
- Customers of restaurants dying in fires because they didn’t want to evacuate before paying their bill
- Pedestrians walking by an injured person because they looked drunk or “different”
- Shoppers succumbing to smoke inhalation in a queue of people because they refused to leave without paying for their goods
- Crowds crushing each other as their natural “flight” instinct overwhelms them completely
Other reactions astound us and the media to the opposite end. Where bravery, kindness and integrity overpower our need for self preservation in a time of panic and confusion:
- Neighbours rushing into burning buildings
- Strangers coming to the aid of severely wounded people in terror attacks
- Bystanders rushing to physically lift a car with a person trapped under it
There are so many different types of reactions that we have, and those reactions are a mixture of personality, peer pressure, instinct and habit. And that is the first thing you should know. You can know yourself to the bottom of your heart and the soles of your feet, but until you are in a situation that is an extreme environment, like an emergency, you do not know how you will react. Even if you have been in an event that was deemed an emergency situation, you may not react in the same way that you did before.
My point being that knowing that you “don’t know” is a good place to start when it comes to scary and life threatening situations. Knowing this about yourself and others allows you to be in a place where your environment and habits can take over. Where you can be governed by the situation, your surroundings and your instincts, not by how you think you might react or say “well I would have….”. Sometimes it’s better to go with what your instincts tell you and what you are capable of at that time. Sometimes preparedness is being open to the unknown.
Ingrain Good Habits
Now you know that your reactions are covered, building a good set of habits to reinforce those instincts is a really good tip. Wikipedia tells us that “Habit formation is the process by which a behaviour, through regular repetition, becomes automatic or habitual. … ” In simpler terms, this means that we can develop habits consciously now with a view to them becoming instinct and being a natural part of our behaviour later.
When related to emergency situations, good habits to build include:
- Exits – checking for your nearest exit when you are somewhere unfamiliar. Register that information before you do anything else. We may mock airlines for their continued use of their old “the exits are here, here and here” speech but, I bet anyone who has been on an aeroplane more than once knows damn well how to get off one!
- First Aid – Knowing basic first aid and practising it regularly so it becomes instinct rather than a long-forgotten idea that you were taught in a hot classroom in 2002. St John Ambulanceoffer courses up and down the country if you want to refresh your knowledge and their search tool makes it really easy to find your nearest course
- Alarms – Recognising and reacting to alarm activation – whether it be a smoke detector at home, a fire alarm in a shopping centre or an intruder alarm in your local supermarket, teach yourself to react to those sounds. Becoming “noise blind” is very easy in our busy world, but putting down your shopping basket where you’re standing and making your way calmly toward the door isn’t so tough is it?
- Checking in – Telling a spouse, friend, loved one or neighbour if you’re going somewhere new or unusual. Tell them your plans, it doesn’t have to be in detail, and when you expect to return. That way, if an event were to occur at the location someone knows to look for you
Who Ya Gunna Call
Not the Ghostbuster’s that’s for sure! But in all seriousness, who will you call if you are in an emergency situation, and I don’t mean 999? Which member of your family, which friend, will you nominate as your point of contact if you needed one? This is not only important for your own personal safety but for a number of other reasons too. If you have nominated a person that you or the emergency services will call then that person can:
- Ensure your safety and react/respond appropriately to any risk
- Arrange to get to you or for you to have somewhere safe to go
- Inform emergency services of any medical history, allergies, or other pertinent information
- Inform others who may be concerned – this reduces the number of people separately searching in mass-incidents, making separate calls to emergency services and hospitals, and frees up mobile phone lines
Ensuring that everyone knows who your nominated person is “In Case of Emergency” or “Next of Kin”, is just as important. By doing this, you have a prearranged network of people who know exactly what to do and what not to do if such an incident arises.
Know Your Home Plan
Most of what we’ve talked about up to this point has been out public emergency situations but we need to be frank about those that could arise at home. Having a family plan, just in case, is crucial. Additionally, practising it regularly, especially with children, is a great way for that plan to become an instant habit should it need to be. The plan should include:
- an escape plan should the smoke alarm sound
- an alternative plan if the initial should fail or be blocked
- an action plan if you were trapped in your home due to fire or flooding near to your home
- an understanding of your homes fixtures and features including water and gas cut-off points
Know your Tech and Telephone
Technology has moved with epic speed in the last century, and it seems to have really picked up the pace in the last ten years. Understanding how your technology can help you is super important to ensuring yours and your family’s safety in an emergency situation. Some tech ideas to know, understand or register for are:
- Apple Medical ID – already built into most devices, this allows access to important medical information on your mobile device without accessing the rest of your mobile information
- Android equivalent – the app for android can be downloaded here
- The 999 SMS service– this service is brilliant for those with hearing or speech difficulties, but, it can be very helpful if you were in a situation where you would be unable to speak to a 999 operator. It’s simple to do too – just text REGISTER to 999 and follow the instructions in the SMS reply. Don’t worry, you’re not being a nuisance or taking up the time of the emergency services by registering for this service
- Add emergency information on your locked screen of your android device – like with the Apple Medical ID, this is a brilliant way of allowing access to relevant information when your phone is locked. More information on this is here
- Understand which number you need – ringing the right number at the right time is key. These are the main numbers your should know:
- 999 – the main emergency line for the fire service, police, ambulance service and coast guard. This can be dialled on a locked screen from a mobile phone
- 112 – is the same as 999 but it will work on a mobile phone anywhere in the world, meaning you don’t need to know the emergency telephone number for each country. Again this works on a locked screen from a mobile phone
- 101 – non-emergency police telephone number
- 111 – non-emergency medical telephone number
So, with all that said, it’s easy to let our positive pants sag a little isn’t it! It is true, preparedness can be a bit disheartening and depressing and I hope that none you are ever in a situation where you need to apply these things. But one thing I do know is that to be positive is to be prepared, not cynical. Enjoying life should not be put on hold because of worry or anxiety around what could happen. Ensuring that you are completely prepared should allow you to relax more, because you know that whatever happens, you will respond appropriately and with your ingrained habits! Whatever you do and wherever you are, employ kindness as your default and you won’t go far wrong….
What habits have I missed? Are you in the Know? Do you have a top tip that I should have covered? Shout out in the comments!
Hugs and Snugs xoxo