Survival Basics

What To Do In The First Hour When Disaster Strikes

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Disaster has struck suddenly, and without warning, taking you by surprise. You’re in a temporary state of shock, asking yourself if what you just experienced is real. Here’s what you do in the critical five minutes after the disaster has struck:

  • Check yourself: Your number one priority must be your own status. Like a ship in which the captain radios down to the engine room for a report, you need to quickly determine your physical state. Have you sustained any injuries? Keep in mind that the initial shock of a disaster could very well mask any immediate pain you might feel from an injury; your mind is too busy focusing on the disaster. Many people report glancing down to find that they are bleeding or are injured in some manner, but don’t recall how it happened. First things first, check yourself to make sure you don’t have any life threatening injuries – you can’t help anyone if you are taken out of the fight!
  • Assess your immediate environment: Look around in a five meter radius, 360 degrees. Make sure there is nothing unsafe about the environment such as anything that is damaged or could fall on you. You need to use all of your senses for this: Look around to discern threats such as broken glass, exposed electrical wires or other hazards. Listen for the sound of hissing natural gas, broken water pipes, or arcing electrical wires. Smell the air for the odor of smoke, natural gas, or other chemicals. Feel the ground or floor around you for stability before you move from wherever you happen to be.
  • Remove imminent threats: As much as you would like to run to the aid of loved ones, if there is an immediate threat you can attend to, such as a leaking gas pipe, arcing electrical wire, or small fire, you should remove it or make it safe. Keep in mind that rushing to help a loved one does no good if you all succumb to a gas explosion or something of that nature. Sometimes, the threat cannot be removed, and thus you need to remove yourself and loved ones from the threat.
  • Attend to others: After you’ve assessed your physical state and then determined the immediate area is safe, it’s time to attend to others. If there are any people present with you, check for injuries. You’ll have to triage in some cases, which means assessing the severity of injuries. Attend to the most serious injuries first, which are usually involve uncontrolled bleeding. Keep in mind that during a disaster, there could possibly be many people who have succumbed to the disaster and are quite dead. In many cases, there won’t be much you can do about that.

Perform CPR only in cases where there are no obvious or fatal injuries and there is a good chance of recovery.

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