Being Winston Wolf For Dummies
August 24, 2009 6:24 PM   Subscribe

Can a person train him- or herself to be more level-headed in emergency situations?

On the weekend my partner and I had a minor emergency with our dog, which involved him getting his lower jaw stuck in a small, hoop-shaped bone he was chewing. He started wigging out, shrieking in distress, and writhing around while dripping blood from his mouth. My partner, who loves this dog more than life itself, also wigged out, started bawling and screaming, and couldn't calm herself down enough to hold the dog while I tried to work the bone off. I eventually had to tell her to leave the room because she was making things worse.

(Closure on the dog story: I couldn't get the bone off without hurting him, but he eventually got it off himself without doing any more damage as I was bundling him up to take him to the vet. It looked and sounded a lot worse than it was.)

My partner and I discussed this afterward and she told me that she realized she wasn't much help and felt terrible about it. I told her that it raised concerns for me about what would happen in a serious emergency where one of us (or maybe the dog) was seriously injured, there was a fire, etc. In fairness I will note here that I have no idea how well I would react to a serious emergency either since I've never been in one, so this question is really for both of us.

Is there any way to train yourself to be more level-headed in an emergency? Have you read or done anything that helped you become more like The Wolf from Pulp Fiction -- cool and calm, taking inventory, planning a solution?

Asked anonymously because we have friends who use mefi and I don't want to embarrass her.
posted by anonymous to Education (27 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Have you thought about taking a first-aid class/CPR class together? Knowing what to do can be the first step towards staying calm.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:29 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

IndigoRain is essentially on target. It may sound paranoid, and you may think it will make your life less fun, but I find it's comforting to try and have a plan for EVERYTHING. Admittedly, I don't have a plan for a pet getting their jaw caught in something, but spending more time thinking about crises and imagining yourself in those situations might be unpleasant, but it will give you some (albeit synthesized) experience so that when something does happen it's not that much of a shock.

The other factor I guess is that you should assume that if something does happen, YOU are in charge. Not because your partner wasn't helpful in this case, but because your knowing that you yourself are going to be responsible will hopefully allow you to rise to the occasion. You don't want to feel totally helpless, because then you'll be no good to anyone. Having the ability to take charge will at least give you a chance of doing the right thing.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 6:36 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding IndigoRain. Boy scouts was critical to my emergency preparedness (that's actually a merit badge!)

In a nutshell, I was trained to:
1. Be mindful of the risks in any situation.
2. Take precautions to combat those risks.
3. Know common solutions to common problems that might arise.

I think mental rehearsal is very important. For instance, do you know the closest emergency room to your residence? Do you know the route to it? Do you have the local police phone number programmed into your phone? (911 goes to the highway patrol oftentimes.)

Working through these scenarios calmly before the fact can make all the difference.
posted by dualityofmind at 6:37 PM on August 24, 2009

The key to staying calm in an emergency is being prepared. You cannot be prepared for every contingency, but simple preparation and knowledge will keep you calm. IndigoRain's suggestion of CPR is part of it. Also, for a fire for example, have a plan. Where are you going to meet outside the house? Do you have emergency ladders for the second floor? For medical emergencies, is there a phone list handy somewhere? You want to eliminate the need to do a lot of immediate thinking. The other thing I found to be helpful was the knowledge that by panicking, I am not helping in any way and by staying calm and trying to solve the problem, I can generally be of help. Also, in a seemingly lost cause, any tactic you try could help. Knowledge and preparation are power.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:40 PM on August 24, 2009

See also "Grace Under Fire."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:45 PM on August 24, 2009

Train yourself (or have them train themselves) to NOT think in those 10 cognitive distortions. What can I do NOW to literally or figuratively stop the bleeding? Train yourself to do instant assessments of situations and find the immediate cause of the problem, and work to stop it. Computer is on fire? Unplug it. Water gushing out from under the sink? Turn off the water. Dog stuck in a bone? Remove it. Kid walking into traffic? Grab his collar.

Learn to prioritize feelings and urges. Emergencies have all sorts of fun FUD and blame feelings that pop up. Work on leaving those for later.
posted by gjc at 6:46 PM on August 24, 2009

The good news is that really only one of you needs to be calm and collected as long as the other one can just not lose it and follow orders. Having one "in charge" person who can sort of tell other people what to do "You... call 911" "You... bring those blankets over here" is actually a decent way to work through these things.

Generally speaking, I am calm in emergencies. However this also comes at the expense of being totally non-emotional. Sometimes emotions help in times like these, so you and your partner may be a decent team. I really couldn't tell you how to not freak out because it's just not my nature to freak out and whatever I said would be from my vantage point and likely not helpful to your partner. It's hard to plan for these things in a lot of ways. Preparedness is part of it, but learning to be calm in a storm is really something that to some extent is temperament based.

I took lifeguarding classes and CPR so I feel that I know at least some of the things you need to know. I also know routes out of the house if there's a fire [drilled into us when we were kids] and have emergency stuff in my car [blanket, spare food, water, whatever] for winter situations. I've been decent at helping people in small-scale situations [small car accidents, first aid stuff] and that may give me confidence dealing with larger situations. I think realizing that each time there's a situation, of any kind, that you sort of have the toolkit for managing it [if not totally fixing it or solving it] can give you more grounding for similar things the next time through.
posted by jessamyn at 6:51 PM on August 24, 2009

I think gjc's phrasing is key: Practice saying "What CAN I do?" and not "What do I do?" or "What should I do?"

The difference is that "What can I do" (or, "What are the options") puts your mind squarely on listing things it already knows about, and the other ways of phrasing don't; in fact they can add to the anxiety. Thinking about a doable set of actions brings a calmness and logicality to a stressful situation, and puts you in evaluation and problem-solving mode instead of one where uncertainty is often the first response.

I say this as a person who has had panic attacks in the past; this has worked for me.

I would add one proviso to another good tip offered above (for people with anxiety issues, especially.) The advice to mentally rehearse responses is very good, except at the time of crisis. For people prone to panic, rehearsing the way to the closest emergency room just before you have to do it can often accelerate their anxious state. Before the fact is important.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:17 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by ellenaim at 7:40 PM on August 24, 2009

My Dad was a fireman who used to give first aid courses and I vaguely remember his main point of advice to me (as a teenager) being that in most life or death situations there wasn't a whole hell of a lot that can be done beyond:

-apply direct pressure to a wound to stop bleeding
-Don't move the person any more than absolutely necessary
-order someone to call for help and return to the scene when they've accomplished that task
-comfort the injured person and keep gawkers away

So basically, don't stress out thinking you're supposed to act like Mr. Wolf. First Aid books are full of lots of useful info but unless you're into backcountry hiking, you're probably never going to need to splint a broken bone or fashion a sling.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:43 PM on August 24, 2009

nthing any advice to get TRAINING in or on any subject.
Emergency driving course will make you a calmer driver in dicey weather/conditions
Lifeguard training will make you calmer in and around the water
CPR/First-Aid classes can help you discern life-threatening v nonlifethreatening unconsciousness

Studying any discipline will discipline your partner's mind, and getting the confidence to deal with one set of emergencies may set her on the road to being able to deal with many other types as well.

No offense, but bonobo's advice is ill-conceived.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:34 PM on August 24, 2009

This comment is going to make me feel creepily Dwight-Shrute-y, but I've had many years' repetition of First Aid and CPR classes when I worked in summer camp and outdoor ed, and also had enough bizarre first-aid style incidents to develop some usefulness in these situations. Based on that experience I agree that taking those kinds of classes will really help you both.

But the thing I think was most helpful about them was not any specific treatment advice about specific problems (because things as specific as "round toy caught on dog's jaw," "stuck under canoe filled with rushing water," or 'Burning milk jug stuck to foot" are not on those lists), but on the general instructions that attempt to train first responders to think exactly like you need to under pressure. There is a professional body of literature and practice that's general enough to apply to a variety of situations, and you can actually internalize it by taking classes - especially if you take them over and over and/or practice drills regularly. Using skills from those classes I've managed anaphalactic reactions, one massive heart attack, diabetic shock, various lacerations, one potential neck injury in the pool, etc. etc. Because of training, I am someone who falls apart after the emergency is over and the reality of the whole thing hits you, not during it. To this day, though I'm not current with my training, I remember most of it, especially the basic response patterns which go something like this:

As soon as you become aware of an emergency, do what they call the "3 C's" - Check, Call Care. That translates to:

First, check everything out. "Survey the scene." Are there other threats like live wires, fire, oncoming vehicles? Is it safe enough for you to be there too? Do you have the full story and know what went wrong? Check the victim(s). Who's hurt? How many? How badly? Who needs immediate assistance? What exactly are their problems as far as you can tell? Who can wait? And, check out who's available to help you.

Call - As soon as you have a good idea what the problem is, identify someone nearby and tell them to call 911 (or, in your case, the vet) right away. This is 2nd on the list (before caring for the victim!) because ultimately, what you want is a professional on the scene (and.or on the phone) as soon as humanly possible with no delay. Anything they can be told while on the way will help them prepare to help better once they arrive. Make sure this call is made before you try to assist the person/dog.

While you're giving orders, as Jessamyn says, you should also get other people into action. Take command of the scene and use a calm, clear, loud voice to tell people what to do. Use their names: "Jenny, you call 911, tell them we have a potential concussion. Bill, get clean rags/ clear the driveway/ , pull the nearest fire alarm..." whatever needs to be done to secure the safety of people on the scene, help you treat the person, and make the response easier. You really HAVE to use people's names to get their attention and make clear you want them to act, more so the worse the emergency is, because if you just say "Call 911" everyone will stand around looking dopey and not sure where they are most useful or what to do. Someone always really needs to take charge in any emergency situation. And do speak loudly and authoritatively. Oh, and also, if you have a person you think is likely to be flaky or emotional, send them to make the call or do some neutral task. They will appreciate the focus and it will get them out of your hair. Just make sure they'll be able to talk coherently on the phone. If there are still people left over after you give basic assignments, say loudly and calmly "I need everyone else to step back now and clear the scene." Send them away if you have to. Gawkers get in the way.

Care is the third thing, AFTER making sure the scene is safe and the response is on the way. In Red Cross First Aid, they teach you to do an "ABC" check before starting to care for your victims - standing for Airway, Breathing, Check Pulse. If all that is OK, move on to bleeding, neck/back injury, shock, broken bones, and the sort of second-tier checks. Your goal in an emergency is just to stabilize the situation as best you can so that the pros can step in as soon as possible and do their job.

Knowing what's really immediately life-threatening vs. what's just messed up is very, very helpful. In the example you give, I'm sure it was awful with the dog shrieking and writhing. But if you were trained in First Aid you could look at it from the standpoint of: 1. Dog is conscious. 2. Dog is breathing. 3. Dog has a pulse. 4. Dog's life is not threatened. Dog has an object cutting into its skin - bleeding and in pain, but not life threatening. Worst case scenario, you get the dog to the doc, the doc knocks the dog out for a while, cuts off the toy, cuts heal. Knowing that the dog would not likely ever have died because of these injuries could help you stay a lot calmer. You would be in a better position to evaluate the true severity of the problem.

I think you would get a great deal of confidence out of connecting with people who have developed systems and skills for managing problem situations, and learning from them. That confidence alone can really help you keep your cool, and if you do need to use your skills, you won't be second-guessing yourself as much because you'll know you did the right thing and followed the best protocols there are. You will feel more prepared and you won't be taking wild guesses, you'll be following a plan you've made for yourself that you'll be using in all emergencies henceforward.

So I'd say to put a high priority on taking training. Red Cross is everywhere and offers classes very frequently. Basic First Aid is a great place to start, along with the CPR training, which is sometimes included but sometimes a separate module (if it's still the way it was 10 years ago). Then you can get more advanced first responder certifications if you want to. One great way you could hone your skills would be to volunteer with your local First Aid squad. They deliver a lot of training and you'd get a chance to watch people respond to a lot of emergencies, help out under their direction, and gradually gain the confidence to do it yourself. I know a number of people who have gone through Wilderness First Aid training, which is kind of great because it assumes that you're far from support services, so it trains you in more response techniques. If you really dig all this you can do Emergency Medical Technician training, which 911 crews have.

And disregard everything I said, because like I said, I last took classes 10 years ago and everything could have changed. They changed the CPR methods, like, 3 times during the years I was taking it. There's always more research to refine the system. Go to classes now and listen to whatever they're saying these days.

But do go! It makes a world of difference. And speaking only for myself, the first 2-3 times i took First Aid/CPR I was still nervous about it and a little confused. It was only after several times going through the class that it really 'took' to the point where I felt like I could be of help and not screw things up.
posted by Miko at 8:37 PM on August 24, 2009 [12 favorites]

Oh, and when you send someone to call 911, tell them to STAY ON THE LINE until help arrives. This keeps a line of communication open with the 911 responders so you can update them if things start to get more serious. It can also help if (when) they don't know how to find your exact location and need someone to talk them in.
posted by Miko at 8:39 PM on August 24, 2009

The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley might be worth reading. The gist of it is that preparedness counts for a lot in emergencies: your body needs to know the right motions and your brain needs to know the right procedure so that when your emotional state gets agitated you can do what you have to do in an almost robotic, routinized way. It's less about feeling calm and more about feeling confident that you know what to do even when you feel completely panicked and freaked out.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:40 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

The good news is that really only one of you needs to be calm and collected as long as the other one can just not lose it and follow orders

Mark this day, because it's the day Jessamyn said something incorrect. What if something happens to one of you, so the other one needs to take charge of the situation?

I don't have a good answer to the OP's question. I think I've got a pretty level head by nature, although I'm not the kind who takes charge of an emergency. I'm not sure if I can attribute level-headedness to anything beyond nature, although one thing comes to mind: cycling. I've been a cyclist for a long time, and riding in traffic forces you to deal with stress, danger, and even aggression with a cool head, because if you allow yourself to be startled, distracted, etc, you can make a dangerous mistake.

I don't think cycling is the only activity that would cultivate this coolness—anything as long as it meets the criteria of exposing you to risk where the consequences of mistakes are serious.
posted by adamrice at 8:42 PM on August 24, 2009

I can't speak to first aid, but in aviation the philosophy is to have a procedure for every failure mode, have checklists for every procedure, and drill the ones that can be drilled until they're second-nature. Granted, "things that could happen to a couple and their dog throughout their lives" is a larger problem space than "combinations of things that can fail on my airplane," but if you're specifically concerned about first aid type stuff, yeah, take a CPR class together. Hell, take an EMT class together -- one of my friends enrolled in one today so she'd have the same level of formal training as her boyfriend (they do some extreme sports together).
posted by Alterscape at 9:38 PM on August 24, 2009

Nthing drills. I've been attending mandatory CPR training off and on for my whole working life. I never thought highly of them - mostly it was a chance to doze off while watching a video of some bad actor get run over with a forklift while hoisting bottles of ether. The practical scenarios and mannequin practices were less boring but still dull and unrealistic.

That changed when a colleague was heading back to his office, coughing, and suddenly fell silent while walking down the hallway and began looking alarmed. A few coworkers and I noticed and gathered around. Without even thinking about it in any rational way, I asked him to signal if he was choking. He signaled yes. The other workers started visibly freaking out. I reflexively went into a Heimlich drill, maneuvering him so he wouldn't fall if he passed out, landmarking my fist on his stomach, and doing the upwards and inwards press in cycles of increasing force until the food popped out and he started gasping for air.

I screwed up in not dispatching anyone to call for help but luckily it worked out ok. I asked the other coworkers who had gathered round if anyone else had taken CPR training. None had. As I regained my sense of introspection, it was amazing to me what had just happened and how it had been eerily like one of those safety videos.

Drill on some kind of crisis training - it doesn't matter what kind, as long as it involves actual practice sessions. All of them should install some kind of "crisis zen" mode to prevent panic where the first step is to stop, assess the situation, and ask what type of emergency it is. After that, if you have training, you can do something useful; but if you don't, at least you won't panic and make the situation worse.
posted by benzenedream at 10:31 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

One thing that we have done is to do put together a notebook with various information and procedures that we might need in different types of emergencys. For example:
- map and directions to nearest hospital
- map and directions to nearest 24 hour pet hospital
- Phone numbers for emergency (esp if your cell phone doesn't work or loses it charge)
- photocopy of driver's license and passport
- list of things to take out of the house in an emergency (divided into sections so each family member

Everyone in the family knows where the notebook is located and that it should be grabbed along with purse, cell phone and keys in an emergency.

For more ideas, check out the FlyLady's checklist for evacuation prepardness.
posted by metahawk at 11:20 PM on August 24, 2009 [5 favorites]

This may be the most unhelpful answer in the bunch. However, when a situation arises, I think only one thing. If I don't do something, there's no guarantee anyone else will and the situation will most certainly escalate. This usually buys me enough calm time to figure out what's going on and what my next step will be. Common sense has bailed me out here more often than not.
posted by arishaun at 11:23 PM on August 24, 2009

Practice. Get involved in emergencies and you'll see them for what they are: circumstances that demand action. Act, preferably wisely. The hardest part for me and most people is seeing that action is required and assuming ownership of a problem promptly.

Training. Skill acquisition is critical to your response ability. The more you know, the better you can respond.

Tools. What can you use to manipulate the world on short notice? I have a Leatherman Wave, which is used 100 times a day. The list is kind of large, but EMS folks carry a kit close by which has common emergency items. "If I only had a ______" sux. You can't carry everything, but there are common items that are helpful. Too many to list here. I have a bunch of odd crap in my man purse including first aid stuff and such.

Prudence. Do no harm. Keep yourself safe first. Get help on the way. Assess and act. Improvise. Think and delegate. Command, but be very specific when you do.

Tolerate failure as a learning experience. You WILL fail to do the right thing. Over the long haul, you'll get better if you aren't in prison for accidentally causing someone's death or in debt for a similar reason, or not dead from standing in the wrong place or taking an unnecessary risk.

Think ahead. An emergency is something for which you are unprepared.

Post-mortem. (Bad choice of words, but the intent is to review how you reacted and see where you failed to have the best response and how you can improve in similar situations.)

All of this is how you get better. I left a lot out. There are piles of EMTs, docs, nurses and also MOMS! here doing it every day. Personally, I rate myself lousy at it, and that's with 3 years of ambulance time as a volunteer EMT, and I have the same questions as you. How do I get better? I hope I don't have to!
posted by FauxScot at 1:38 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's completely natural to panic when faced with a crisis but if you can understand the physical sensations of adrenaline kicking in it's much easier not to become overwhelmed by them. Talk with your partner about her response to stress, it might help her recognise what's going on.

The 'What can I do' approach outlined above really, really helps, taking a couple of emergency management skills courses such as first aid etc can give you a set of practical tools, and help you focus attention on the immediate situation. There are cognitive tools too. Conciously choosing to defer the 'panic response' stage until after the crisis is over can be a really good coping mechanism in the short term, but you need to be able to recognise the panic.

Talk with your partner about what she was feeling, why she became out of control and what led up to her having to leave the room. If she can identify what triggered her this time, and explore ways of preventing panic escalation it might reassure you both should another emergency occur.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:17 AM on August 25, 2009

Many years ago I took an advanced first aid class and several life saving classes so that I could work on a volunteer rescue squad. It was very fulfilling work. The course was based on a Red Cross curriculum and was presented by two people who worked on the squad. The class consisted of RN students and me.

I worked on the squad for about a year and what happened to me was that my brain snapped into "rescue mode" where I would get this almost Sherlock Holmsian mindset attuned towards the accident scene. Let me give you an example - I went to a call where someone in the back room of a small apartment had a heart attack. On the way in, I saw immediately that there was no possible way they gurney would make it around the corner in the hallway. And when I say immediately, I mean that when I saw the corner, my very first thought was "Reeves stretcher".

My spouse has seen this happen. We were walking to a street fair and I heard "screeeee--thump". She said that I turned around, paused for about a second then took off at a run. That 1 second pause was spotting where the accident was, if there was present danger, and getting there before some well-intentioned person made things worse. In short order, I had the crowd dispersed, the useful people doing useful things and the useless people out of the way. Voice of Command is a truly beautiful thing.

For me, this is probably a combination of training, a highly focusable mind, and photographic memory. It's easy, it's natural.

A couple years back at a bar in O'Hare, I had a talk with a man who was a security consultant in Bosnia. We talked about it, and from my experience I thought it was training that did this - you know what to do, you do it. He disagreed. He says that he has worked with people who had training and were useless - they crumbled in emergency situations, which he said is a very bad thing if you're getting shot at.

Two data points.
posted by plinth at 5:51 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I thought it was training that did this - you know what to do, you do it. He disagreed. He says that he has worked with people who had training and were useless

But the corollary of that is that people who have no training in emergency response are also useless, regardless of their instincts. You don't learn the Heimlich or CPR, for instance, through the application of common sense. Training is worth the time.
posted by Miko at 6:48 AM on August 25, 2009

There's two things that make people effective in stressfull situations: personality and training. This is true both in capital-E Emergencies which make the news, and in small-scale ones that don't.

Panic and concern for safety are the two big problems for responders: panic happens first and is very visible, safety issues tend to happen more slowly but can be much more serious.

The key to dealing with panic is to recognize it in yourself or others and to have an effective set of strategies for dealing with it. The hardest step with panic is the first. If you can stop for a second, take a breath and plan, you've solved the problem. Panic is mostly not knowing what to do and can be solved in yourself or others by giving simple, clear orders. If some one has a job, "Call 911, report back to me!", they generally stop and focus. This is where training helps; it gives you the list of things to do.

Habituation, through training or experience, is the key to dealing with panic. Moderating your reactions and recognizing the signs of panic in others is the first step. Some people never get over the panic reaction, but most people can train themselves to get past it. Dealing with panic is the easy one, unfortunately.

Safety issues are subtler, harder to catch and rather more deadly. People who respond to stress situations typically think of the problem first and consider themselves last, if at all. This can often make the problem worse: a mother who rushes into a burining building; a coworker to enters a confined space to drag out a buddy only to suffocate too; a relief worker who puts herself into heatstroke (and hospital) by being in the sun for 14 hours straight. This is entirely natural, but to be really effective, you need to take a step back and consder the safety of yourself and others. Training can help here too, but making a commitment to it and doing it when things are falling apart around you takes considerable mental effort.

To make matters worse, concern for safety can turn into a peer-pressure battle and cause fights: "We have to do something!". Already stressed people (co-responders) don't always (ever!) make rational decisions. It can be hard to resist, but it's absolutely necessary.

One safeguard we always use with people in situations is a buddy system. A buddy can tell if you're paniced, and can warn you if you're looking tired or stressed. You can do the same for them. Two people with some training can be very effective together.

We train responders, I've been a part of big disaster response operations (for work) and I'm a Red Cross volunteer. I've done first aid in the field. Every emergency is different, but personality and training are the two things that make someone capable of action.
posted by bonehead at 7:27 AM on August 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

In addition to the recommendations above, I wonder if it would be helpful to take up hobbies or other activities that help you develop a sense of mastery over the physical world. For example, I used to freak out easily but now I don't, thanks I think to my use of tools and my penchant for building things.

I started with small home repairs using a hammer and then graduated to a power drill, circular saw, chainsaw, and beyond, including designing a home and building other structures from scratch.

That has had two effects: Now I'm the one who says "Hand me that ax!" when necessary, and more important, I feel confident in general about my ability to deal with the physical world. Now I'm pretty good in an emergency or, if I'm injured or disoriented, I can at least stay still and wait for orders.

I'm female and think it's especially harmful for women to believe that they "can't" use tools or otherwise manipulate the physical world.

It doesn't have to be home construction but could be any activity that makes you interact with big things in the world and figure out how to move them, avoid them, or change them. Bonus points if it's an activity that occasionally results in mild injuries so you get used to reacting calmly to blood.
posted by PatoPata at 8:11 AM on August 25, 2009

There's a book called "The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why," by Amanda Ripley. Fascinating stuff about why people do the dumb stuff what they do in emergencies. Once you know the whys, it helps to deal with the now-whats by knowing what to drill to avoid. (Hang on, that sentence got stuck.) If you *know* that you're going to react a certain way, learn to recognize the signs that the unhelpful reaction is coming and also learn how to move out of it. It's not so much a matter of avoiding the reaction; rather, it's learning how to minimize its effects.

(I don't have the book on me, so I'm going from memory.) I think it's in the Conclusion that the author talks about the guy who was head of security of one of the big firms in one of the Twin Towers. He was a total pest at getting *everybody* to do fire drills. Not just, "everybody mill around near the elevators," but actually going down the stairs, the order in which they would go down (top floors first while lower floors wait), etc. When the planes hit, everybody knew what to do, knew where the stairs were, and he got a record number of people out, safely.
posted by bentley at 9:01 AM on August 25, 2009

I'm a big fan of Jim Macdonald's Emergency Preparedness posts on Making Light (scroll down a page to the four Emergency entries). Jim is an EMT in New Hampshire and has great advice on what to do in an emergency.
posted by kristi at 2:07 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

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