Know where to go and what to do
If you’ve ever been caught in an emergency situation, you’ve probably noticed how easy it can be for panic to set in. Perhaps you have been the one to panic, or perhaps someone you have been with or near has been overwhelmed when confronted with an emergency.
By contrast, have you ever witnessed emergency services personnel attend a fire or motor vehicle accident, and noticed that they seem calm and unfazed? Perhaps you’ve watched a medical emergency unfold and noted that the medical staff, although rushing to grab the necessary equipment or attend to the person at risk, have not shown any indication of the panic that may have you paralysed? How is that the professionals manage to save lives in an emergency.
Staying calm will passively save lives
It is true that emergency services personnel and medical professionals often have personal traits that enable them to remain calm under pressure, and that many of us lack the capacity (or desire) to tolerate or manage that kind of stress on a daily basis. However, while not everyone is cut out for actively saving lives, we can all act to passively save lives.
Emergencies, by their very nature, are stressful situations. However, the crucial difference between situations that devolve into panic and those where people remain calm often lies in whether the people involved know what to do and how to do it.
How do we stay calm in an emergency?
There are a number of ways we can teach ourselves to remain calm in an emergency, from focusing on a specific goal to learning calming breathing techniques to educating and/or informing ourselves. Each of these helps us in a different way but, when taken together, these steps can help us to stay calm and save lives.
1. Focus on the immediate goal
Generally speaking, emergency services personnel and medical professionals learn to tune out external distractions and focus on the immediate goal. In a team response, each person is assigned a specific task or role that becomes their sole responsibility for the duration of the emergency situation. By allocating clearly defined tasks or roles, the team can be assured that nothing will be left to chance –everyone involved will know who is in charge and what is expected of them.
If we are called on to assist in an emergency situation, we can stop ourselves from being overwhelmed by focusing on one thing at a time:
- If you are tasked with finding and using a defibrillator, concentrate on doing that one thing.
- If the building is on fire, focus on getting people out.
- If you are responsible for calling emergency services, focus specifically on that:
- Make sure you know what information is needed by emergency services before you call.
2. Take a moment to breathe
Humans are hard-wired to react to an emergency with what may be termed a “stress response” – the ancient ‘fight or flight’ response that is automatically triggered when our senses perceive a threat.
Adrenalin floods our system and our breathing and heart rate increase, preparing us either to stand our ground and face the threat, or run from the danger so we can live to fight another day: Our previously relaxed, deeper breathing, powered by our diaphragm, becomes a shallower breath, confined to the upper chest. This rapid, shallow breathing only serves to fuel our stress response and keep us on edge.
The quickest way to physically calm our natural stress response is to take a few conscious, deep breaths. It has been proven that using controlled deep breathing techniques can help us take control of our breathing, actively calm ourselves and focus our attention, so we can avoid reactionary or panicked thoughts or actions.
3. Be informed
While learning basic first aid is a useful skill that is transferrable to a wide range of situations – there are obvious benefits to knowing how to use a defibrillator and an EpiPen and knowing how to perform CPR – this isn’t always practical or possible, for a multitude of reasons.
Medical and survival experts tend to agree that one of the best and easiest ways to remain calm in an emergency and help to save lives actively or passively is to ensure you are informed, so that you can be relatively confident in an emergency. Examples of this include:
- Making sure you look at the evacuation diagram on the back of your hotel room door.
- Familiarising yourself with the site map in the foyer of your local hospital or office building.
- Taking a closer look at that safety sign you keep walking past in the lobby of your apartment building.
- Reading the emergency procedure flip chart in your room, at your desk or at the reception desk.
4. How can safety signage help to passively save lives in an emergency?
As an employer or building owner, it is imperative that you install safety signage in your workplace or building as part of the legal requirements for safely managing the work environment, buildings and other facilities.
By placing emergency and evacuation procedures, safety signage and evacuation diagrams in the appropriate location/s building owners and business managers can instruct their employees and site visitors on how and where to safely exit the building, giving them the direction they need and passively saving their lives.
Businesses who train their employees in emergency and evacuation procedures and provide regular evacuation training drills, ensure their employees know what to do and where to go in the event of an emergency.
Safety Maps can help you save lives with safety signs
Safety Maps is an industry graphics specialist providing standards compliant safety maps and emergency signage to inform, protect and direct your stakeholders in the event of an emergency.
The safety of every human being relies on their ability to remain calm and act rationally in the face, and that’s why we aim to help business owners prepare their buildings, and the people inside, for emergencies and disasters.