It’s the middle of the night.
You are suddenly jarred from your sleep by the wailing of a fire alarm. What do you do?
This should seem like a simple question. Obviously you get out of bed and go outside. But what did you do to get ready to go outside? Did you get dressed? Did you put your glasses on? Did you grab your keys to be able to get back inside? Did you grab your car keys? Did you already know the quickest way outside, or even a alternate route?
Such simple things, bus most people don’t think about them. It may just be a false alarm. Or the building really could be on fire. It could be something even larger, think earthquake or other natural disaster. What you have on may be all you are going to have for the next day… or two days… or week. How well would you fare?
A similar situation happened to me last week when there was a gas leak in my hotel in Seattle. At midnight ( The perfect time for something to happen ) the fire alarm went off. I was sound asleep and disoriented but got up and got dressed , remembered my key, and left the room.
Most of the time I wear contacts but I always carry glasses with me. Since it was a fire alarm I didn’t bother putting my contacts in. Besides it was probably a false alarm. I didn’t think about my glasses until I was in the hallway. I am not totally blind without them but it never occurred to me how poorly I see when I do not have my glasses on. Outside in the darkness, it was even worse. People were talking to me but I couldn’t see their expressions. I could not tell if they were looking at me or at someone else. It was a eye-opening experience, if you’ll pardon the expression, because I realized that if this was a real emergency then I had gone from being a fully functional human being to a handicap and liability.
It took a hour before it was safe to go back in the building and other than some lost sleep the whole thing was a nonevent. But what if it had been the real thing? What if the building had been on fire? What if there had been a larger disaster and I had to go a lot further? Obviously that is alarmist thinking, but that doesn’t stop it from being useful. Simply planning ahead to grab my bag that has all my stuff in it (including my glasses) would have made a world of difference in an emergency.
No one plans to be in an emergency situation.
None of the people in Indonesia in 2004 expected to be washed away by a tsunami.
None of the nightclub partiers expected to be in a terrorist massacre.
Yet it does happen.
The key to survival in unexpected situations is some form of preparation. Ironically, most people are irritated or even offended at the suggestion that something might go wrong. Just get on an airplane and say, “man I hope this thing doesn’t crash,” if you don’t believe me.
You don’t need a ‘bug out bag’ or spend hours memorizing the hotel floor plan, you just need to make a mental note of what you need to do if something happens so you are best prepared to survive. And what you need varies on where you are. If you were in the US or some other first world country then the list of essential items you should have on your person is much shorter than if you are in a place like Africa.
Again, you shouldn’t go around planning for every disaster that could happen. Simply have everything to function on hand so you can adapt properly if something comes up. Think medication, or glasses, or proper clothing, or basic knowledge of your surroundings. Oh, yeah, and be healthy. You may have to run or climb, and while you don’t have to be an athlete, you should be fit enough to be able to save yourself.
The next time you see something in the news about a terrorist attack or earthquake or fire, think to yourself if you could have survived that situation. If not, take steps to prevent yourself from being another casualty.
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”