Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book Review: The Unthinkable

(I wrote the following email around August 2008. Since then, I have found the blog and find that she covers all this emergency preparedness stuff every day.)

I just read the greatest book, I recommend it to everyone. "The Unthinkable: Who Survives when Disaster Strikes and Why" by Amanda Ripley. It was just published in June 2008, and I had heard of it so I ordered it at the library. It was fascinating to see the different decisions people made that enabled them to survive when those around them did not get out alive.

I have read probably a hundred disaster books in my life, because I really love that subject. I think what I am always trying to learn from these books is what to do if the same thing happened to me. It was interesting to read that in a terrorist attack, fire, airplane malfunction, ship sinking, etc, how it is human nature to hesitate, gather your belongings, and/or not believe that the problem is as serious as it is. In fact, lots of people turn into zombies and can't think at all, just sit there. (Of course they don't survive. ) That tells me that when the circumstances say "go", you should get the heck out of there instead of sitting around wondering what to do.

Being a seminary teacher, of course I tend to relate stuff to the scriptures, so I thought of Jesus telling people about the Desolation of Abominations, and how they would be saved if they didn't go back to gather their stuff (Matt. 24:18), and just left at the first signs of trouble. Various Church literature that I have read said the faithful early saints were able to escape the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 because they knew the signs and didn't hesitate. Wish I had the reference on that but I know I read it somewhere!

Another thing I learned from the book is that when a person practices an escape route, or does fire drills, they are much better equipped when the real thing happens. The author gave so many examples of people becoming unable to think, and the only way they could function in the emergency is because they had done it before in practice so it was a little automatic. The people who hadn't practiced or didn't know the exits or stairwells, couldn't cope and just sat there. So I am asking all of you to have a Family Home Evening on fire escapes or tornado drill, or think about flooding or earthquakes or whatever, and make a plan and talk about it. That way when the real thing happens you will have a plan to follow. Making a plan during an emergency is almost impossible because your brain shuts down.

It told the story of a man and his wife who were one of only a few people to survive a plane fire on a runway. He had escaped from a fire as a boy, so he had a lifetime habit of always being aware of where exits were, and always looking for ways out of places. The minute the fire happened, he grabbed his wife and they got out the exit. Almost everyone else died, because they didn't know where the exits were. When I go to teach quilting, they usually put me in hotels, and I always find the stairway and find out how many doors it is away, etc, so I could find it in the dark or in the smoke. The author goes much farther than I do, she said everytime she stays in a hotel, the first thing she does is go all the way down the stairs from her room and find her way outside so she knows exactly what to do in a fire.

Something the book pointed out is that normal people are always the first responders. The people that are at the scene of the disaster of course are there when it happens, so they are there way before the police and firemen come. So it is very useful for everyone to have first aid skills. I am so thankful for the Boy Scout program, and Girls Camp, and all the training my husband and kids have for emergencies, and am a bit ashamed of myself for not having any first aid skills.