If a disaster struck you right this instant — right now, right where you are — what would you do?
If you are like most people, chances are that you will freeze like a deer in headlights. The instinct to shut down when faced with a high-stress situation is common, according to Amanda Ripley, author of a recent book, "The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why." Freezing in place probably served as a form of defense for our cavemen ancestors, "but in more modern situations it is not as appropriate," said Ripley in a March Q&A interview with APHA's Get Ready campaign.
"We need to understand this better because it’s the kind of thing you can overcome, and it’s very, very dangerous in events like fires or plane crashes," Ripley told the Get Ready campaign. "We've seen this many times, we know that this is a bigger risk than almost any other behavior — certainly much more likely than panic — so we should start planning for it in advance."
So can you really do anything to prepare? Ripley says yes. Studies have shown some people react better than others in emergency situations and that training can help. To start, when faced with the worst, try controlling your fear by adjusting your breathing: "Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, release for four counts, hold for four counts and you repeat, over and over and over again whenever you are under stress," said Ripley, who is a Time Magazine writer. Another tip? The best chances of survival in a disaster are usually to stick together and rely on those around you.
To read the full exclusive Q&A with Ripley, visit the Get Ready Web site. While you are there, check out our other helpful Q&As with health experts, including those that tell you whether your pets can give you diseases, what foods are healthy to put in your emergency supplies and how to keep your kids free of infectious diseases. Learn something new today with a Get Ready Q&A!