So, you’re a prepper who has worked hard on developing a resistant mindset well-suited to disaster. Lo and behold, a disaster arrives and you can overcome your body’s response and see what must be done in order to escape safely, but the unprepared people around you are either panicking or just standing stunned in emotional overload. They could be strangers in a crowded mall or street, or just one member of your immediate family in your own house but regardless there are steps you can take to “wake them up” and get them thinking and working properly towards staying alive.
How to help others survive when you are able to aid them.
In this I presume that you are already able to take care of yourself mentally and emotionally during the initial emergency. Whether by conditioning your mind or by training to handle a specific disaster (think firefighters when they’re rescuing people from burning buildings) you are mentally functioning and able to guide others who may not be so fortunate to safety. The key to always keep in mind is to minimize the number of people hurt, particularly anyone “valuable” depending on the situation. If you’re talking a house fire in your home, you might prioritize your children or ailing grandparents since they’re less able to escape on their own than a healthy adult. In a larger scale setting, it might mean taking extra care to ensure that the doctor in the group conserves his strength to tend to the wounded once you’re away and safe rather than having him help clear rubble or setup the life raft. Although it can sound selfish, if you’re the only one fit to command you may be of better use in a safer position too, but ultimately that has to be your decision.
So long as you keep that key in mind, you should be better able to prioritize when going through the remaining steps.
Once you’re able to function: the first steps towards safety
In any event, even a mall shooting where every moment is precious, you should still take the time to think and assess the situation before diving in.
Once you have regained full control, your first step is to identify the problem and put yourself in the safest position possible while you think of the best means of survival. If you’re caught in a mall shooting situation for example you might temporarily hide in a bathroom to listen for the positions of gunmen, to identify obvious exits for any defenseless people you find, or find good spots from which to shoot back. Rushing in immediately rarely helps unless there is a very clear and obvious solution (get out of the burning house!) Only once you have carefully thought things through can you help others.
Next, find nearby people and either calm them down or give them a quick jolt to knock them out of their overload. Here are some ways to help with this:
- Give them something to do or somewhere to go. These people will already been in a total mental meltdown, so unless you find someone with a cool head assume you’ll need to do the large part of the thinking for them. “Hide in here!”, “Go down those stairs and out the door!” “Help me lift this off of him!” Are all good examples of simple, but valuable instructions during an emergency.
- Repetition is your friend. There will be a million thoughts whirling around in their heads, so repeat even the simplest instructions multiple times and ask them to make some sort of assent to make sure they understand. People may get annoyed with you, but so long as they understand what you need them to do their hurt feelings are a minor concern.
- Keep it simple. Keep directions simple, with obvious visual indicators that don’t rely on memory all that much. Stress kills memory recall, so forcing some panicking soul to remember your 12-step escape plan is a bit much.
- Be gentle but firm. Don’t be afraid to yell or be curt with people in order to keep them safe, but try to be gentle when gentle will work. It does you little good to tick people off just for kicks, and your own adrenaline rush will make you more aggressive mentally in any case. Try to restrict actual physical shoving and movement when possible unless you’re going to be guiding them away from danger yourself, since you could inadvertently harm them if they fall.
- Address specific people. If you’ve ever seen those videos where a man is beaten half to death despite a large crowd of honest spectators surrounding him, you will know that a crowd of people will rarely act even when it is sorely needed. Point to a single person, however, and suddenly success or failure becomes much more personal and people are more likely to act.
The second half: what to do once everyone is out of immediate danger
Care for survivors of the event until help arrives, or until you feel you’ve done all you can to aid them.
Assuming that you were able to get most everyone out safely, most people will probably still be in shock and some could be injured without even knowing it. Assuming qualified personnel haven’t arrived yet or are unavailable, your responsibility at this point is to use your knowledge of first aid to help the people who are most severely wounded. If possible, try to find other people who are unhurt to assist in cases where you might need extra strength. Continue working until help arrives or until you are satisfied you have done what you reasonably can.
At this point, it’s somewhat up to the survivors themselves to care for their needs if there is no help on the horizon. At the very least you gave them a fighting chance to survive the immediate threat, which they would not have had without you. Although you cannot save everyone in every emergency, at least you’ll be able to help some survive in the event of a disaster.