Okay before you even start the whining - I am very much aware that some of you are not 'readers'. But this book is amazing.  It was a huge eye opener for me.

Amanda Ripley has a book out titled 'The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — And Why?'

In her book she says, "In moments of total disaster something happens in our brains that affects the way we think. We behave differently, often irrationally." 

book disaster personalitiesWham!  This statement hit me right between the eyes. It is so true!

She goes on to say, that each of us has what she calls a "disaster personality," - a state of being that takes over in a crisis.  It is at the core of who we are.

Think back on emergency situations big and small in your past or that you've watched unfold before your eyes.   

Like for me, seeing a women refuse to take off her 4" designer heels to walk the 16 flights of stairs during an office fire!!?? (Honest - I saw it happen!). Apparently, her core told her that her shoes were more important than her life??!!

Ms Ripley searched for patterns in human behavior by interviewing hundreds of people who lived through catastrophes.

What she discovered is all of us undergo a three-stage process when we find ourselves in a lift threatening situation:



And, the "Decisive Moment" (during which the survivor buckles down and acts.)

How many of you have heard the fire alarm go off at your work place and continued to work? - Denial

Then, you learn someone burnt food in the microwave on another floor – it’s not on your floor so what's the harm in staying put you say? - Deliberation

Smoke begins to fill the air vents to your office and you grab your purse, keys and cell phone and head for the nearest stairs (hopefully kicking off those heels on the way out) - Decisive Moment

Ms Ripley gives us five ways to refine our disaster personality.

The first is attitude. People who perform well in crises tend to have three underlying advantages:

  1. They believe they can influence what happens to them.
  2. They find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil.
  3. They are convinced they can learn from both good and bad experiences. 

(Not to worry, like all human behavior no one achieves all of them all of the time.)

Next is knowledge. The brain is amazingly acceptable.  If you understand how you are likely to react to a disaster, you can learn to override your worst instincts. By learning more about your actual risks--or the risks that scare you most--you will probably be calmer in the face of a crisis someday.

Then, there is anxiety level.   People with higher everyday anxiety levels may have a greater tendency to freeze or totally shut down in an emergency. That is not always a bad thing. In fact it’s a very common reaction, but it’s important to recognize this tendency in us and override it.   

Next, body weight. Ouch!  This is gonna leave a mark! 
The harsh truth is that overweight people move more slowly and are more vulnerable to secondary injuries like heart attacks. 

And lastly, training:   By far, the best way to improve performance is to practice (running, hiking up steep inclines, walking long distances, going without food for a day (also known as fasting), staying out in the heat or cold, carrying a heavy back pack around (maybe even practicing with your BOB), camping with a minimum of supplies (i.e. forget the cooler full of cold drinks), think survival.  

Make a list of your biggest risks (in different kinds of disaster situations) to give your brain something to work with.

Think hard about this - survival is not just a product of luck.

- Survivor Jane


Related Articles:

Second Chance at Life – What Will You Do With It?
Hurrying up and Wait (The Disaster that Never Comes)
When Things Aren’t as Bad as They Said it Would Be
Band-aids and Beans and Bullets … Oh My!
Survivor Vice Grip - Did You Know Vices Can Save Your Life?
What if Tomorrow a Disaster Actually Did Happen?- (Preparing Today for Tomorrow)
Following Your Gut Instinct
Words Can't Describe It - (Visualizing a Disaster)
I think I can... I think I can - (Mental Preparedness)
Life is a Stage – (Practicing for Survival)
Afraid of the Dark? (Surviving in the Dark)
Do you have any spare CHANGE? - (Did you know it takes 21 days to CHANGE a habit).
“The Suddenness of the End” - (Our Mental State of Mind)
What is so Golden about a Horde? - (The Golden Horde - Mass Exodus after a Disaster)
What a Great Personality! - ('Knowing Your Disaster Personality)

Get Your Head Outta the Sand! – (Public Awareness Regarding Disasters)
How to share 'Your Secret' - (Sharing with Others How to Prepare for a Disaster)
I can’t Stress it enough (Survival under Stressful Conditions)
Be Prepared - (Not to be Confused with Hording)
Going It Alone - (When You are the Only Family Survivor)
Red Rover Red Rover - (Teaming Up with Like-Minded Survivalist)
Dress Rehearsal - (Preparing for Life after a Disaster)
Prepare Like There's No Tomorrow - (When the 'Poo' Hits the Fan)
'B’-ing Prepared (Make sure you are stocked with Beans, Bullets, and Band-aids)


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