Disaster Preparedness – How Best to Prepare Your Mind
On September 11th 2001 there were 7 people in an express elevator; 6 of them with college degrees in suits, and one window cleaner with his cleaning gear.
They were heading upwards when they heard a giant ‘BANG!’ and the elevator shuddered to a halt.
They were around the 50th floor and were now enveloped in darkness. A deathly silence ensued…
That elevator had the I.Q equivalent of 900 yet everyone was completely stunned.
“Okay,” said the window cleaner “I’ve got an idea”. He began trying to pries open the door with his squeegee while the business people frantically struggled to find their mobile phones.
Almost immediately, the door was open. Unfortunately he was met with a wall. This elevator didn’t stop at the 50th; it went straight to the top.
The group demoralised, our window cleaner spun his squeegee to its metal side, and started scratching determinedly at the wall. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, light began to peer through and shortly afterwards, the gap was big enough for everyone to force themselves through.
They emerged under a sink in the men’s toilets and were able to navigate down the stairs, through the crowds and out of the building to safety.
What’s interesting about this story is that the business people with their college degrees and high ‘intelligence’ didn’t actually know what to do in this situation.
You would have thought that the most intelligent of the group would immediately analyse the situation and proceed with the most logical plan of action…
But no, not one of them showed the initiative to act first.
Now academic education is important, we all know that. But in situations of danger that, to be fair, most of us will experience several times throughout our lives, academic education is not enough to give us the foundation of knowledge we need to live a completely successful life.
So what can you do to improve your response in an emergency?
Let me explain what happens to your brain when you are in an emergency. Simply put, the emergency response area of you brain — the amygdala — ‘floods’ your rational mind with instinctive reactions that you aren’t aware of. And it’s not just the brain either…
You may feel that you start breathing heavily. This is your body pumping extra blood to your muscles so you can run away from body goes through many changes in order to give you the best chances of survival.
In these times you are reduced to your primal instincts — there is no ‘thinking’ going on, just ‘feeling’ and acting. Unfortunately, those instincts aren’t always best suited to the scenario we’re in…
The key to improving your response time is experiencing what your brain considers an emergency,but on a very small scale. So this may be, for example, public speaking. You will start with 5 members of your family, then 10, then perhaps some people you don’t know, and then onto 30 people you don’t know. By taking these stepping stones you are teaching the emergency response area of your mind that certain ’emergencies’ don’t warrant the fight or flight response.
As a final tip… When you’re in a high stress situation, try your very best to STOP and think rationally. Identify the reality of the situation, and once you can do this, if that REAL emergency should come, you’ll have nurtured the strength to maintain control of your emotions.
P.S. Of course, you could always get a summer job as a high rise window cleaner.