Forty-six percent of US residents believe they will experience a disaster in the coming years, yet very few are actually preparing. Only one third of Americans participated in a preparedness drill this past year. Maintaining your composure during an emergency situation is easier said than done. No one really knows how they will behave when it comes to a moment of life and death. You can just as easily freeze-up as you can keep calm and maintain your cool. How can you know for sure? What can you do to help assure yourself that when fire breaks out in your home or any other kind of urban emergency occurs, you stay level-headed and do what needs to be done?

During a high stress situation, your body goes into fight or flight mode. This causes your body to overproduce the stress hormone known as cortisol. This hormone slows down the part of your brain responsible for executive function and critical thinking. Your hippocampus is temporarily narrowed as well. This is the part of your brain that is responsible for learning and memory. Basically, the overproduction of cortisol during an emergency situation can greatly inhibit your ability to survive.

So, how do you stay calm? How can you prevent the overproduction of cortisol? One thing you can do to remain calm is to be prepared. This means practice. Every building should have an action emergency planand should run drills in order to know exactly how to act during emergency situations. Obviously, if your smoke detector goes off and you haven’t the faintest clue of what to do next, you’re going to panic. This is the equivalent of having a pop quiz without ever having paid attention or done any homework. You are practically guaranteed failure, generally with a bit of panic beforehand. Knowing exactly where you will go, what you will do, and where all of your emergency items are located, such as your SkySaver, are the key factors in maintaining your composure during such a situation. Knowing what you will do goes a long way towards remaining cool, calm, and collected when facing dire circumstances.

Generally, when an emergency situation arises, there is some kind of warning beforehand. With a fire, you smell smoke, or hear the smoke alarm. With an active shooter/terrorism situation, you generally hear gunshots. It might not be a large period of time, but use it wisely. Take a moment to think clearly about what actions you will take and then take those actions. Do not do anything rash. Breathe and do what you practiced.

Lastly, get yourself to safety. Having advanced warning, being well-practiced in your buildings action emergency plan, and knowing where all of your emergency supplies are located is more than enough to give you the chance you need to make it to a secure location. Depending on the emergency, you can either wait for first responders to arrive, escape via emergency exits, or use your SkySaver when conventional routes are unavailable and little time remains to wait.

So just to reiterate:

  1. Be Prepared
  2. Think
  3. Get Yourself to Safety

Being level-headed during dangerous circumstances can be the difference between life and death. Even being well-practiced in your action emergency plan, knowing where everything is located, and remembering to think the situation through might not be enough, as no one can possibly know how they might react when tensions rise and their adrenaline kicks in. These tactics can certainly raise the odds in your favor. Being prepared for any possibility will give you a much better chance at survival.