How to Escape Disaster While Maintaining Your Dignity
December 16, 2011 23 Comments
In his book, The Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam documents cases in which people die in disaster because they use the time when they could be escaping looking around trying to figure out what other people are going to do. For example, the people in the South Tower of the World Trade Center had 16 minutes to decide what to do on that fateful day after the first plane hit the North Tower. Officials advised over the public address system that people in the South Tower should stay where they were and not risk exiting the building into the danger of falling debris. Despite this recommendation, one guy put on his running shoes, laced them up, and took off down the stairs. I love that he took the time to put on his running shoes. I also find myself wondering if he took the extra time for double knots.
The problem with running shoe guy is that hindsight is 20/20. We operate in a herd mentality, looking around to our peers for the most acceptable course of action. This guy was probably a little quirky to begin with, or someone would have likely grabbed their own athletic gear and followed him. His co-workers probably watched him dash off thinking, “Look at Bill taking off with his running shoes. What a weirdo!” Then, if everything had indeed been fine and dandy, Bill would have been teased mercilessly for months about what would forever be known as, “Bill’s Running Shoe Incident.”
The moral of this story is if you go around putting on your running shoes with no imminent disaster occurring, people are going to make fun of you. In any potential disaster situation, it is equally important to both act decisively and not look stupid. This is why I suggest implementing what I call “The Starbucks Tactic.”
Consider a sample scenario. You are in your office and the fire alarm goes off. Most of you will glance around to your co-workers and say things like, “I wonder if this is a drill.” Some of you will look for signs of smoke that may or may not be pouring through the building. However, being aware of the Starbucks Tactic, you ask calmly if anyone would like Starbucks. Your timely decision to go for coffee gives you the opportunity to gather your wireless devices and whatever cash you have on hand, then make your escape. If there is a disaster, you will be camped out at a safe distance with wireless and a latte. If there is no disaster and the fire alarm went off because someone left their popcorn too long in the microwave, then you have your wireless and latte, plus you don’t look like an over-reacting idiot.
Remember this tactic, as it could one day save your life. You are welcome.
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