Archive for March 12th, 2009

Horizon: How To Survive a Disaster

March 12, 2009

Apparently we’re all such sheep that, were a fire to rage through our place of work, we’d just sit idly through it as it licked at our bones – unless an influential individual told us to get out. Even worse: If your boss told you to stay where you were until they’d checked out the problem, you’d probably just stay where you were until they’d gone off and died of smoke inhalation, then sit there idly waiting for the flames to lick at your bones.

You mug!

This laziness in the face of danger was illustrated by the findings of the 9/11 investigation team, who discovered that a great many of the victims on that day decided, after the first plane had torn through their building and turned the very structure of the buiding to molten dribble, to finish off an email, have a chat with a colleague or pop to the loo before evacuating the building. It seems that modern panic in the corporate environment takes the form of a blank reaction – a wide open gormlessness in the face of certain death. Which is comforting.

Horizon’s terrifying ‘How To Survive a Disaster’ based its findings on, among others, facts gathered from the National Office of Statistics. They reckon that death from fire, suffocation and drowning aren’t quite as common as you might think and that, in fact, you’re far more likely to die from accidental poisoning or, even more worryingly, falling over.

Yes – slipping on something beneath your idiot shoes is a bigger killer than your humble road traffic accident. So get yourself to Clarks at lunchtime and buy something with a rugged heel. You’re playing silly buggers with your own existence if you don’t.

It gets worse. The likelihood of your getting stabbed by a marauding gang of hoodies, unless you live in Clapton, are pretty much miniscule. But we see evidence of this kind of death on the news all the bloody time, often over breakfast as we’re trying to retrieve a crust from a toaster with a wet knife, so our signals are crossed and mangled as to what’s more likely to cause our own personal extinction.

It gets even worse. According to experts, when you’re in a disaster situation, your brain is too busy distorting time – slowing it down so that you can make use of the vital seconds you have before you potentially bite the bullet – to actually function properly. Focus? Goes out of the window. Performance? Not a chance. Coping mechanisms? They burst. Basically, when circumstances collide to place you on the brink of combustion, you’ll be stuck to the spot watching yourself disintegrating in slow motion. A cheering thought.

So what can we do to avoid calamity? The experts say we should pay attention to their safety gumph when on planes or operating heavy machinery. But considering we’re all going to freeze up and freak out anyhow, I can’t see the point of wasting your final seconds reading forms. The answer’s simple. Don’t panic – just answer your emails and act as normal. Everything will be fine.