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View Diary: Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 2 of 5 - Plan to survive! (154 comments)

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  •  Are you sure? (none)
    Some people just give up.  Some people freeze.  

    I don't think anyone's arguing that some large number of people go into an emergency thinking "I hope I die," but maybe the difference is between "I hope I survive" and "I will survive, I will make sure of it."

    •  An example (none)
      I guess for me this emphasis on "I will survive, I will make sure of it" risks crossing the fine line between confidence and over-confidence. And in an emergency overconfidence in your ability to respond appropriately can be deadly.

      Let's take the example of the chest-safety Prusik knot in caving and climbing. The Prusik is widely used as a safety backup knot when repelling down a rope. If for some reason the person descending releases their brake hand (e.g. because a falling rock hits them on the brake hand) the knot is meant to prevent them falling out of control by automatically tightening on the main rope. The problem with a chest safety-Prusik was this knot was positioned just above the chest harness.

      There were an awful lot of deaths where it was difficult to figure out why the Prusik knot wasn't holding, why people were plummeting to their deaths despite this safety in place. The problem was this: when climbers lost braking control and began to rapidly descend, their instinctive reaction was to grab tightly the main rope in front of them. This meant they were also grabbing tightly around the Prusik knot, which if squeezed opens and will not grip. They were riding the Prusik knot down to their deaths.

      We are talking about and extremely knowledgeable, well trained and very safety conscious group of people. These were not just novices making this instinctive mistake, these were also caving experts and highly trained search and rescue personal. They all knew that you must never, ever grab onto the Prusik, that it will open if you do (that's how you release it once it's locked on). People who were certain that in an emergency they had the training and discipline to react properly.

      What was really needed was a better designed safely knot placement and the Prusik is now being placed lower down and to the side, off the hip harness instead of the chest harness. This way when you instinctively grab the rope in front of you, you don't grab the Prusik too.

      It took a lot of deaths to make climbers realize that it was deadly to continue with a safety system founded on confidence in your ability to make the smart choice over the instinctive choice.

      It's not that I don't think will and determination don't play some role in disasters response, it's just that I think it's too easy to make yourself believe how you would react better than someone else. It may be comforting, but it can also be deadly.

      The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

      by MaggieEh on Mon Sep 12, 2005 at 07:37:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In my experience (4.00)
        which includes the Loma Prieta quake in 89, a house fire, a canoe capsizing in an overflowing river, and a couple of "disagreements" with people wearing the uniform of another country, it is decisive action that gets it done.
        I'm not saying that one should just run off willy nilly.  Far from it.  Planning and training (even a monthly fire drill with your children) will give focus to one's efforts, and help one to make the right decision.
        But hesitation kills.  And it kills quicker than making the wrong decision, which can always be modified by the pro-active person.
        Do SOMETHING, and do it NOW.  Stay alert for changing conditions and be prepared to alter course.  Even sitting still, if done intentionally, is better than inaction.
        Being excited about life, and determined to live it will get one a hell of a lot farther, whether in a disaster scenario or the workaday world than not.
        Sooner or later, your luck will run out, and you will die.  It sucks, but there it is.
        With a little forethought and planning, coupled with decisive action, that day will be a lot less likely to be tomorrow.

        Wounded Warrior Project Give till it hurts. They already did.

        by soonergrunt on Tue Sep 13, 2005 at 01:35:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Different experience-perspective (none)
          I would certainly agree with most of what you have to say. The point I was trying to make, apparently badly, is that in my experience, I've seen too many people substitute a belief in their personal skills and willpower for forethought and planning. People who have used `if I was in that situation, I would never, never let myself fail', as a substitute for making wise choices ahead of time. Like guys in the climbing community who don't use a Prusik knot at all because they genuinely believe themselves skilled and prepared enough not to need it. People who won't wear lifejackets because they just know that if the boat capsized they would make it to shore, cause they're strong and would never, ever quit trying. (When asked how they would accomplish this if they were knocked unconscious you then get into the , hey, how likely is that sort of thing conversation.)

          I understand your perspective. There are defiantly situations in which hesitation kills. But what I don't agree with was summed up nicely by your comment "And it kills quicker than making the wrong decision, which can always be modified by the pro-active person." This myth of the pro-active all powerful person. Wrong decisions cannot always be modified.  

          From my past experience in water safety and search and rescue, it wasn't the `most determined' that survived the unexpected, it was the most prepared. And often, the people who believed themselves in advance to be the `most determined' used that as an excuse for sloppy safety habits. The combination of the two, prepared and determined, is fantastic. I was simply trying to say not to let the last overshadow the first. And not to hold determination up as the defining characteristic of the survivors. I think it's overly simplistic, because would also be the defining characteristic of the vast majority of the dead.

          You say `he who hesitates is lost'. I'm just saying, if it were that simple we wouldn't also say `look before you leap'.  

          The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

          by MaggieEh on Tue Sep 13, 2005 at 06:46:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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