How To Keep Calm and Deal With an Emergency Situation

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Strategies for keeping calm and managing an emergency situation. How to fix an emergency.

Emergencies happen when you least expect them.  Sometimes, everything seems calm and relaxed, and that is when your child decides to stick a paperclip in an electrical socket.  Other times, you're running around trying to accomplish several things at once, and that's when you realize you set the oven on to preheat hours ago, and a fire has started in the kitchen.

As true as it is that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," that only helps you remember to prevent accidents; it doesn't do a darn thing when you're in the middle of an emergency.  How can you keep your calm and avoid panicking in an emergency situation?

First of all, it is important to understand just how important keeping calm is when you are dealing with an emergency.  Once you panic, your "fight or flight" response is engaged, and blood is diverted from places like your brain and digestive system, and redirected to your heart, lungs, and legs.  This makes it literally more difficult to think logically, and you are likely to overreact or forget information that seems simple and self-evident, such as calling 911 if there is a fire or someone is having a heart attack.  Since time is usually a critical factor in the outcome of an emergency situation, delays in calling 911 or performing basic first aid can be disastrous.  Staying calm is therefore one of the best things you can do to make sure your friend or relative survives that heart attack, or you get the kids out of the house before it goes up in flames.

Although some people are naturally better at remaining calm in certain situations that others, (like one paramedic I know who, the worse a situation is, the calmer he gets) everyone can reduce their panic reactions somewhat.  Preparation and practice are the key elements in improving your reactions to emergencies and therefore, the odds of a successful outcome.

Being prepared involved simple tasks that many people mean to do but often end up putting off, like having emergency numbers posted right beside the phone, or keeping emergency medication (like epi-pens, asthma inhalers, or nitroglycerin for heart attacks) organized and accessible.  Preparation also includes a plan if a fire occurs in your home -- what exit will you use, which exit is the backup if the first one is blocked, and does everyone in your family (including young children) know that they are supposed to crawl to stay below smoke?  Have you taught your children what calling 911 does and told them that if the adults are ever in trouble (if you fall unconscious, can't breathe, or can't move) that they must dial the number and answer all the questions they are asked as best they can?  2 year olds can dial a phone, and although they may not be able to answer many questions in a sophisticated way, they can say "help" which will bring fire trucks, police cars, and an ambulance to your house.  Many 5 and 6 year olds have saved their parents lives by calling 911 right away.

Practice is very important when it comes to dealing with emergencies.  Most first aid certifications only need to be renewed every 3 years, and studies have shown that most people forget almost half of what they learned at the training after 3 months.  Continuous review and practice, with your family involved, will make sure that in an emergency situation, skills like CPR will feel ingrained and automatic. Review with children on a regular basis reasons to call or not to call 911, what to do if there is a fire, and which people they can trust to call if they need help (refer to emergency numbers posted by the phone.)

If you or your child has a medical condition, help your child to practice pronouncing the name, and give them a basic understanding of what happens in case they can't remember the name when calling for help.  A good example is: "If Mommy feels sick and falls down, you need to call 911 and tell them that Mommy has die-a-bee-tees.  This means that if Mommy doesn't eat right she gets sick and falls asleep and needs a doctor to wake her up.  It is very important that the doctor comes right away."  Depending on the age of the child, this information should be reviewed weekly or monthly.

Don't wait for tragedy to strike before you get yourself prepared for an emergency.  Keeping calm, and training other members of your family to do the same, can save a life -- maybe even yours!

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Posted on Jul 23, 2011