Have you ever heard about someone getting lost in the woods, or escaping from a fire, and thought: “what would I do in THAT situation?” There are some basic strategies to remember which will help you to get out of a number of sticky situations, and to minimise danger or injury.
The first strategy in ANY emergency situation is to stay calm. Even in time-sensitive situations, take a moment to breathe deeply and calm your nerves. When you’re calm you can think clearly and conserve energy.
It’s not good to worry about emergencies on a day-to-day basis, but a little preparation now can save a lot of trouble later. It never hurts to be prepared, and with that in mind, here are ten emergency situations and how to get out of them.
1) Choking. Self explains that the first thing to do is to cough hard. If there are others around, signal for help immediately. (If you can talk at all, that’s good! It means air can still get through.) Resist the urge to drink or eat anything to dislodge the stuck item, as that could create further blockages. You can perform a kind of Heimlich Manouvre on yourself, too, by placing your fist under your ribs and above your belly button and thrusting it against your stomach in a hard and fast motion to dislodge the object. Self recommends using the back of a chair or corner of a table to push against. You can also try getting in a Downward Dog position to let gravity help.
2) Getting lost in the woods. Firstly, always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back – they’ll be the ones calling for help if you don’t return! Even if you only plan to be gone for a few hours, New York State Officials recommend taking water, food, a knife, waterproof matches, a flashlight and a fully-charged cellphone. When you realise you’re lost, take the time to make a plan, Little Things advises. Decide whether you can find your own way out (if so, look for any landmarks that might tell you where you are, and be observant so that you do know if you are covering old ground) and if not, decide whether you’re likely to be rescued by nightfall. If you’ll be spending the night in the woods, collect adequate firewood, conserve your water, and build a shelter. If you think someone will be looking for you, STAY PUT, or you might be evading your rescuers. Warmth and water are the two key elements to your survival.
If in doubt, S.T.O.P… Sit down, Think, Observe, and Plan.
3) Nosebleeds. According to WedMD, you should sit up straight and tip your head forward. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently but firmly press the soft part of your nose shut. Apply an ice-pack to your nose and cheeks – the cold will constrict the blood vessels and stop the bleeding. Try to keep pinching your nose shut for a full ten minutes, to allow the bleeding to stop. Afterwords, don’t sniff or blow your nose, and avoid anything that might raise your heart rate, or the bleeding can start again.
4) Dehydration. According to WebMD, even those experiencing moderate dehydration should get out of the sun and heat immediately, elevate their feet, and take off excess clothes. Adults can mix a simple rehydration drink using a quart of water, half a teaspoon of salt and six teaspoons of sugar. Sip it over time, as large amounts of liquid can cause vomiting. WebMD advises that in the case of vomiting, try administering liquid in the form of ice chips. Severe dehydration is marked by dry skin and mucous membranes, little or no urination over twelve hours, increased heart rate, dizziness and fatigue, and it requires immediate medical attention in the form of intravenous fluids. Call 911 immediately.
5) Escaping from a house-fire. Firstly, always take note of your nearest exits when you are in a new building. When you hear a fire alarm or smell/see/hear other signs of fire, move quickly to your closest exit. Every second counts. WikiHow suggests testing closed doors with the back of your hand; if it is hot, or you see smoke escaping from under it, do not pass through that way. Smoke inhalation is the biggest threat in a house fire, so if you have to pass through any smoky areas, crawl on your hands and knees. If it won’t take more than a few seconds, cover your mouth and nose with damp clothing. If your clothing catches fire, STOP, DROP and ROLL.
6) House-fires with no escape route. Assume that you will be rescued shortly, and in the meantime, ward off the smoke. Use clothing, tape, or anything you can find to stuff under doors and into vents so that smoke doesn’t come into your room. If there is a window to call for help, do so, and then leave something hanging out of the window to signal your location to rescuers. However, do not leave the window open – fire will be drawn towards the oxygen. Only attempt an escape from a second-story window if the situation allows it – by throwing your mattress out of the window to create a landing pad, or by lowering yourself down off any substantial ledges or drains until you are low enough to drop without injury. However, WikiHow warns that in most situations you will be safer to keep calm, secure your room from smoke, and wait for rescue.
7) Hypothermia. According to Readers Digest, hypothermia occurs when our core temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit and our body stops supplying blood to surface vessels in order to keep up enough circulation around our vital organs. Initial symptoms include pale, cold and dry skin, shivering, and fatigue, and later, the shallow breath, a slow pulse, and delirium or confusion. First, take off any wet clothes and dry the hair. Secondly, warm the patient gradually, by putting them in a warm space, wrapping them in a heat blanket, or using your own body heat. If the patient is fully conscious, a warm drink and sugary foods will give them fast energy and warmth. Healthy, fit people can sit in a warm bathtub but be careful with this; for elderly people the sudden heat can be too much of a shock and cause a heart attack or stroke. Remember: gradual warmth is the key.
8) Serious wounds. According to LifeHacker, the first step is to wash the wound with clean water, if you can find it. Be conservative if this is your only water source, and if the bleeding is severe then it is better to skip this step and focus on staunching the blood flow. Next, find something soft and absorbent to staunch the bleeding. Paper napkins, cotton balls, or sanitary pads will work, as will tampons or clean clothing. Use any kind of tape, string or clothing to secure the absorbent pad to the wound, taking care not to tie it too tightly. Keep the wound elevated above the heart, and where necessary, apply firm pressure with your hands directly to the wound. Note: tourniquets are a last resort, designed to stop death from blood loss. Do NOT apply a tourniquet unless you believe it to be necessary.
9) Broken bones. This isn’t like you see in the movies… Lifehacker warns not to try and straighten broken bones or make elaborate splints. Broken bones have sharp and uneven edges and can sever tendons and arteries when treated wrongly, so it is best to leave that to the professionals if rescue is imminent. The best treatment is to have the injured person keep very still, and keep the affected area elevated. If possible, ice the limb with anything cold you can find (freezer pads, cold drinks, towels soaked in icy water) for twenty minutes at a time.
10) Natural disasters. Build an emergency kit and keep it somewhere that is easy to access, elevated and dry, with a regulated temperature. It shouldn’t take up a lot of room – Lifehack suggests that a 5 gallon bucket will hold enough. They should hold a few key items such as a flashlight, a utility knife, waterproof matches and cash (see the full list here) as well as a few basic hygiene products – sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrush and female sanitary items. A basic first aid kit is one of the most important inclusions – Lifehack suggests a good list here. You should also have enough contained water in your house (approx 1 gallon per person, per day) and enough non perishable food to last a week. This preparation makes it safer and more comfortable to wait out the time it takes for the government to restore water, electricity and civil services in the wake of a natural disaster.