Oh no! A bad thing happened… Again. Here’s how to survive an emergency situation.
We all react differently in emergency situations. Some of us let out high-pitched (but still very manly) screams and run in the opposite direction. Some of us go into freeze mode and forget to move at all. Some of us lash out. Some of us shrug our shoulders and carry on with our day.
Indeed, as South Africans, we tend to be a little blasé about the big things, like, “Oh, there is a giant meteor heading directly toward Earth and we’re all probably going to be sucked into a black hole of doom? How inconvenient.”
Probably the most South African reaction after the meteor hits would be emerging from the rubble, grinning at our neighbour, getting the space dust out of our hair, and heading off to meet a friend for coffee. In other words, we are programmed a little differently here and it’s not really surprising when you think about it. We oscillate from pandemic lockdown to wild west unrest, floods, and powerlessness (literally), all in a day’s work.
What does come to light every time there is an emergency though, is that we don’t really know what to do (despite all the practice we’ve had). That’s why we have compiled this handy ‘how to survive the apocalypse by not doing stupid things’ list, which we hope you will bookmark, share with your equally brave (read: kinda foolish) mates and family.
How To Survive In The Event Of… An Unexpected Emergency Event
Rule 1. Stay Calm.
One of the best things to create is a little pre-emptive ‘what to do in a crisis’ list, because preparation is key in any emergency. The number 1 thing on that list, is to STAY CALM, which is generally the point where everyone yells loudly ‘I AM *EXPLETIVE* CALM’, in a very uncalm manner. That’s okay. No points are deducted for bad language.
Rule 2. Assess the Situation.
There are two choices to make if the world is melting and we don’t have a boat arena. Either, shelter in place, or evacuate. This is dependent on what the danger is, and where you are.
Rule 3. Call Us (or Emergency Services) In Case of Anything.
Once you have made your call on rule 2, it’s time to actually make a call and get a hold of emergency services. In South Africa, we don’t have one emergency number you can call no matter what… unless you are in our footprint. If you are, save 086 162 7732 now.
We will respond ourselves when our services are required, or will call other emergency contacts on your behalf if you need them. Our In Case of Anything number has been put to good use over the last couple years. With a whole lot of unexpected ‘anything’s’ going down.
Side note: We have supplied some other emergency numbers at the bottom of this article, just in case you do fall beyond our footprint.
Rule 4. Information is Important
Knowledge is power. We (or the emergency responders) will need as much information as possible in order to help to the best of our abilities, so please try and obtain as much, specific and accurate information you can (without putting yourself in danger), so that you can supply as clear and comprehensive a breakdown as possible.
Here are a couple specific emergency scenarios to consider:
If there is a flood
- Shelter in Place (this is a general rule, but you may need to be fluid… pun not intended)
It’s just a little rain, right? Wrong. As Durban’s recent encounter with that wet stuff can attest, rain can be incredibly destructive and dangerous, so if you hear about an oncoming storm, gather indoors (this includes your pets – it may even be wise to pop them in a carrier), or under a secure and stable structure. Depending on the violence of the storm, stay away from windows. The centre of the house is best. Don’t shelter under isolated trees, or small sheds, if you can help it.
- Stop Driving
If you are driving please pull over away from powerlines and trees, or into a secure parking structure until you can safely proceed.
One of the things that happens a lot here, is we misinterpret the depth of ‘puddles’. Don’t drive through them. Please. Like seriously. Just stop. It won’t take much to seize the engine, plus your car isn’t as heavy as you think, and could easily be swept away, as could you. We aren’t talking about a raging torrenting river here either, we are talking about that puddle. More people drown in cars during storms than anywhere else.
- Stop Walking
Hey, don’t walk through flowing water either. Please. Did you know that about 15cm of swiftly flowing water can knock you off your feet? If you absolutely have to walk somewhere, please use a pole or stick to make sure that there is still ground under the water as you proceed. Do this even if it has stopped flowing.
- Say Thanks to Eskom?
If you are within a safe structure, gather candles, flashlights, batteries, power banks and stuff like that, just in case the power goes out. We are all well equipped with these things thanks to Eskom. We could formally thank them for inadvertently making us prepared for this sort of emergency, but we don’t feel like it.
- The Threat Isn’t Over
As we experienced, short quick bursts of rain, after long periods of heavy rainfall, may be particularly dangerous because of the ground’s instability. Be vigilant. Be careful. Stay in.
If There Is A Fire
- Escape Route
This is not a ‘shelter in place’ scenario, guys. Let’s just lead with that. Move away from the fire, but we want you to do so calmly and carefully.
Have an escape route. Make sure that your family (or colleagues) knows what it is and follow it.
Have a backup route. This is NB because fires don’t care about your plans. If you are at work, please make sure that those with disabilities are able to get out, some businesses even designate someone to assist in such an event.
- Go Low
If growing up around a braai has taught us anything, it’s that smoke rises. So, if you are in a location that is on fire, go low. There will be less smoke and you will be able to see more clearly as you navigate your escape route.
- Be Careful
Feel your doors (handles etc.) before barreling through in the throes of panic. By doing so you will be able to tell if there is fire building on the other side, in which case you will need to ensure that door is firmly shut instead. If there is no other way out, wave something out of the window to alert people to where you are.
- Don’t Call For Help. Yet
Don’t call for help until after you have evacuated. This is a golden rule – get to safety first. Most times a neighbour (or someone passing by) has likely already called emergency services anyway. Once you are safely outside, and if the fire services have not yet arrived, by all means blow those lines up.
- Meeting Point
Have a designated meeting point (whether at home or work) and make your way toward it. Once there you can analyze the situation, get a head count and see who may be missing, so that you can alert the fire fighters.
Include pets in your family ‘crisis’ plan. i.e. Ensure that your pets have an easy escape route, too. Be aware of all your pets’ hiding places. Make sure they have chips and that the info is up to date. And please immediately let responders know about Reginald and Petunia if you couldn’t find them before making your own escape.
- DON’T GO BACK IN!
If there is a meteor
We don’t know guys. Screaming seems like a fair response. Good luck though.
Some other ‘good to know’ stuff. Because it’s good to know stuff
- If the roads have been damaged and walls and trees have fallen, please be very careful. Don’t try and drive through giant craters and under broken powerlines. You may need to be patient and wait it out a bit.
- Keep your 5L (or larger) bottles and fill them with tap water (pre-emergency) and keep them somewhere out of the way. In this way, if water supply is disrupted, you can still wash hands, dishes and flush toilets.
- Have a to-go bag. It’s like a survival kit for the zombie apocalypse. See below for a checklist on what should go inside.
- Make sure that you have your food staples and basics – possibly keep a cupboard aside, or space in your pantry, that is only to be accessed in case of an emergency. Stock it with dry goods, pastas, rice, canned products, and bottled water. Also ensure that you have lighters, batteries, toilet paper and the like as well – see below for a checklist of what should be put aside.
- FYI. One of the mistakes that South Africans made during the pandemic, after the riots, and again during the floods in April, was panicking and buying up in bulk to a ridiculous degree. Just because you can afford to get trolleys full doesn’t mean that you should, because it leaves lower income groups in dire need. When you can only buy goods at best on a weekly basis due to funds, and then have to deal with out of stocks on top of it, it can create a crisis in and of itself. Let’s be kind, and think of each other.
- Join your local community WhatsApp or Telegram groups (chat to us about some of ours if you are within our footprint) and keep up to date with what is happening out there in your neighborhoods.
- Keep your car topped up. (We know… liquid gold is expensive these days, but you don’t want to cut out in an emergency).
- Make sure you have an extra power bank for your cellphone (keep this in your to-go bag). And try and hold off on the long convos with mom. She’s worried, we understand, but you may need your juice for something else and if you don’t have easy access to power for a while that could be problematic.
- Have a bit of cash on hand.
- Have a first aid kit (or two or three). Keep one in your car. Keep on in your house.
- No power? Eh, it must be Tuesday. You know what to do.
What to put in your to-go bag
- First aid kit
- Emergency chronic meds
- Lighter or waterproof matches
- Flashlight (and batteries)
- Power bank (for cell phone charge)
- Something warm
- A bottle of water
- A Stanley knife (or similar)
- Snacks – some nuts and protein bars
- Tissues (or a roll of toilet paper).
- Make copies of your NB documents and keep them in a waterproof zip lock or something like that, include: ID, Drivers, etc.
What to keep in your cupboard
- Long life milk (or powdered)
- Bottled water
- Food for babies (if you have one of those)
- Food for pets
- Canned goods: veggies, meats, soup, fruit etc. (don’t forget the can opener, just in case those pull-tag thingies break)
- Dry goods: rice, beans, pasta etc.
- Staples: sugar, salt, pepper etc.
- High energy: peanut butter, snack/protein bars, dried fruit and nuts, biscuits, rusks, cereal etc.
- Sports drinks (Powerade, Energade) or fruit juices
- Chocolate. What? You’re in crisis. You’re allowed a cheat day.
- Lighter, matches, torches, candles, batteries.
- Toilet paper
Some emergency numbers to have and hold:
- Marshall (In Case of Anything) – 086 162 7732
- SAPS Emergency Services – 10111
- eThekwini Fire & Rescue – 031 361 000
- Independent Crisis Team – 084 810 4469
- SPCA – 031 579 6500 / 083 212 6103 (a/h)
- Netcare – 082 911