Disaster Survival Guide

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

You never know when disaster will strike. If it does, it’s important to be prepared. Your life—or the lives of others—may depend on knowing how get out of a tough jam. Here are some tricks that experts say will increase a person’s chances of surviving a sticky situation.

You are bitten by a snake


Even if you once saw it done in a movie, don’t try to suck the venom and spit it out. This will only make you absorb even more venom. Remain calm-most snake bites aren’t fatal. Panic will only make your heart beat faster, speeding the venom through your body. Clean the wound the way you would any other type of wound. Then tie a band between the wound and your heart to keep the venom from spreading too quickly. Don’t make the band as tight as a tourniquet. Seek medical attention right away. If you are in the woods and can’t easily get to a doctor, go to a road and wave down a car.

You are in water with sharks

Great White

Try to keep still, to keep the shark from noticing you. If you think it’s attacking, hit it in the eyes or gills. (Punch the nose only if you can’t reach the eyes or gills.) Use your fists or any hard object. Sharks aren’t interested in going after prey that fights back, so it will probably swim away. To avoid this frightening problem, it’s best not to swim alone far from the ocean’s shore. Don’t swim during the twilight or evening or wear brightly colored swimwear. Don’t swim if you have an open wound.


You are attacked by a bear

Don’t turn your back on the bear and run away. The bear will think you are prey and chase you. There’s no way you can outrun a bear. Nor can you out-climb one. Bears will chase you up a tree, where there’s no escape. Your best hope is lie down and play dead. The bear might come over and inspect you, maybe even swipe at you with its claws. With any luck, it will lose interest and leave.

Your car is sinking

First and most importantly, open the car windows. You want water to fill the car so the pressure on the car’s inside and outside will be equal. Now you will be able to open the doors. Get out of the car as quickly as possible. If you can’t open the windows, try to break them. If that doesn’t work, wait while the car slowly fills with water. Once the water has reached your head, the water pressure should be equalized. Hold your breath, open the door and swim out.

You are in a lightning storm

It’s not what you do—it’s what you shouldn’t do: don’t stay in high places or open ground. Don’t stand under a tree or flagpole or in a picnic area, baseball dugout or bleachers. Don’t go near metal fences and any body of water. It’s better to stand inside a large building than a small one. Once inside, don’t touch anything conductive that leads to the outside, such as window frames, showers and pipes. Don’t pick up a telephone or use a computer or TV. If you’re inside a car, roll up the windows and try not to touch anything that can conduct electricity.

Your tongue is stuck to a cold pole

This isn’t life-threatening—but it’s painful and embarrassing. The best advice is not to put your tongue on a freezing pole in the first place. But if you do, don’t try to quickly pull your tongue off the pole—you’ll rip it! Instead, move your hands (they should be in gloves!) over the pole near your tongue. This should warm the pole enough to let you slowly pull your tongue off. If warm water is nearby, splash it over your tongue to thaw it. Don’t put cool water or your saliva over the area: they will both freeze, making the situation stickier.

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