TMI… seriously!

by Maria on May 18, 2009

In other cool things about L.A., I have to admit the non-mortal earthquakes are pretty great. I’ve sat through two of the 5+ richter ones and was about 4 miles from last night’s epicenter. The most striking thing is that in the first few seconds of an earthquake, a completely random explanation for it pops into my mind. The first time around I got quite irate that our upstairs office neighbours were thumping around making such racket that the building swayed. Last night, although I live 2 miles from the freeway, I instantly thought ‘wow, that’s one big truck passing by. Or maybe it’s a tank?’.

It turns out that’s not an unusual reaction. Human brains are very good at rationalising the immediate aftermath of a disaster into business as usual. But, contrary to popular belief, not panicking isn’t all that successful a survival strategy. A book I read last year ‘The Unthinkable; Who Survives When Disaster Strikes’, says much of the planning around plane crashes, fires, etc. assumes that the first thing people will do is panic and run around doing stupid things that impede their escape. In fact, the most common and dangerous reaction is to just go limp, stay passive and assume that the nightclub fire is really not all that bad or that you should sit in your crashed plane seat until help arrives. Or that the hostage situation is all a terrible misunderstanding. That’s a very good way to die.
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