In preparation for our latest earthquake/fire drill at school, I read Amanda Ripley’s “The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – And Why“. I highly recommend it as it goes through human reactions during a crisis. From fire to airplane crashes to accidental explosions to floods to the story of the people in the World Trade Center on 9/11, Ripley goes through human psychology during emergencies.
My big takeaway from the book is to make sure the school and my family have practiced what to do so many times, that our actions will be automatic in the event of a real emergency. It is a natural reaction to panic, but if one has practiced the drill so many times, they will usually do what they have been trained to do. This also means having as much information as possible about a building’s safety features, like where the exits are located, location of fire extinguishers, etc. The biggest risk for us in Japan is an earthquake. The basics of taking cover, knowing where to turn off gas/water and moving safely to the nearest emergency shelter, should all be automatic for us. After an earthquake, there is a high chance of fire because of downed wires, so evacuating safely is important. I made a note to install a fire alarm in our house because we have portable gas/electric heaters and to be aware of emergency exits in airplanes and hotels upon entering.
We always have a debriefing after every drill, and with this recent one, we realized that we need to teach people upon reaching a door, how to unlatch the locks on top and bottom to avoid delays of groups. (see photo below) We also need to have everyone quiet on the soccer field so we can take attendance efficiently.
In thinking about risk/safety however, depending on your age and location, the biggest risk we face is heart disease and cancer, the two biggest reasons people die, so a healthy lifestyle and regular wellness visits to medical professionals is the best thing we can do. It It is human nature to focus on rare, dramatic events, but the chances of these happening to a person are very slim. We should treat more common causes of death, like car accidents, with the same attention we do terrorist attacks, because it is a much higher risk to die in a car accident that just about any type of traumatic event.
We are already planning our next drill for the winter trimester which will take place in February 2017. We are also convening a two-school task force to work on improving our emergency preparedness documentation. Note that our wonderful SOIS library also has a copy of Ripley’s book.