I have a lot of respect for those who manage to survive a disaster. Some praise God, some thank their luck and some their wit. In current scenario being ignorant about our surroundings is not a good idea. The happy-go-lucky attitude can turn deadly in disastrous situations which unfortunately are not rare nowadays.
I live in merciless Mumbai. Not long after I shifted here I survived one of the infamous disasters of this megacity on 26th July 2005 when Mumbai almost drowned due to heavy rain and clogged outlets of rainwater. Every first shower of monsoon brings back memories from the dreadful night I spent in my office. The water filled the basements and the ground floor of my office building. The security shut down the elevators and advised the staff to use the staircase but no one was going anywhere. There was so much water on the roads that only rooftops of cars were visible.
Lots of people who left their offices early in hope of reaching home before it gets worst got stuck in between as the vehicles including the trains were forced to stand still. Many took shelter in their cars when the water was not high but it was a cloud burst and soon the water was high enough to seal the doors. The lucky ones escaped by braking a glass of their car but those who failed to do that or fainted due to lack of oxygen died in their cars. It was a tragedy and came as a complete surprise. The morning of this fateful day started like any other busy workday but soon turned into a very difficult afternoon.
This is not a memory of a tragedy but a memory of the brave hearts that call Mumbai their home. This was the day I found out how unbreakable Mumbaikars don’t lose their cool in challenging situations. The next day when the water was going down I left my office with few of my colleagues and reached home after walking 9 miles in water sometimes knee level and sometimes waist level for 5 hours while avoiding invisible open potholes.
Many others were doing the same and the streets were filled with lots of people who were trying to help the people walking to their home. Ropes were tied at many places and people where holding hands and walking in a line taking support of the ropes. Many stood at difficult places to help people or alert them of obstacles under water. People were helping each other and nobody was a stranger.
This memory also reminds me the amusing emergency drill when my ex-employer took some pain to make us aware about the safety measures. Unfortunately, we got aware that the beautiful tower we were so proud of can jeopardize our lives if we ever had to run out of it. A big building can get deadly tricky in case of an unfortunate event. With help of some alertness we can try to help ourselves and others in such conditions. It is true that in such unpredictable incidents it becomes very though to take right decisions or make the right move but let’s face it, the events happening lately are a clear message that we are not safe anywhere anymore.
Here are few tips that can be useful to prepare ourselves:
1. STAY FIT AND ACTIVE: Gone are the days when you could afford being lazy. Try to be on your toes as much as possible. Run, climb, walk, swim, exercise to stay fit as you never know when you might have to run to save your life or climb up or down n number of floors.
2. KNOW THE PLACE: Knowledge can save your life. It is important that we know the place where we plan to spend hours. Be it your office, home, recreation centre, movie hall, mall, or your gym. Know the alternate exists like the stair cases, rear doors, emergency exits, and staff elevators. If you visit the place regularly this becomes compulsory but easy.
3. OBSERVE: Stop walking blindly in buildings. Observe the floor plans, signs, and symbols we always ignore, as they can help you know a lot about the place. I am sure you must have noticed the big ‘EXIT’ symbol on the exit routes in a movie hall. They are made visible in dark for the audience. That might not be the case elsewhere hence it is logical to know all the exit routes of the buildings we spend a lot of time in. This practice will come handy in case of power failure.
4. STAIRS ARE FRIENDS: Use stairs at least once a day to reach your apartment or your office floor. It is a good exercise plus it builds up the stamina. It will be easier and faster to run from the stairs you know well.
5. BE NICE TO THE MAINTENANCE EMPLOYEES: The house keeping unit, the security guards, the blue collar staff call it whatever you want. I have noticed people ignoring even eye contacts with them. These people are the one who make the buildings function in a proper way. They literally know the in and out of the building they work in. So next time you go to the wash room and see a housekeeping person standing there. Don’t just ignore him/her but say hello or at least a smile won’t hurt. After all in case of an emergency these employees will be more helpful than any manager.
6. DON’T BE MECHANICAL: My office was in a twin tower building where the towers where mirror images of each other. For years I entered the office from the front entrance and took a left to go to my tower. I got mechanical about this so when I entered the office from the back entrance I blindly took the left turn instead of right and went in the wrong tower. I realized my mistake only when I reached the fourth floor and saw the sitting arrangements where different. Ironically the human mind becomes mechanical when we do the same thing over and over. Stop behaving like a programmed robot. Observe, read, learn, and understand as you walk through the buildings you spend time in.
7. TRAVEL LIGHT: Try to carry a light bag everywhere. Keep a habit of clearing the bag of unwanted stuff. Important documents like passport should not be carried along unnecessary.
8. WOMEN TRAPPERS: Girls love their high heels, Indian girls are found of their flowing pallu or dupatta and they also love to wear their hair open but all these can become trappers in case of emergency so always carry some hair accessory or a band to tie up your hair. Be ready to stuff the dupatta in your purse in case of fire and get rid of the high heel shoes if you have to run.
9. FIRST AID LESSONS: Take some First Aid lessons from a professional. If your neighbor’s child, your nephew or any kid you know is into ‘Boy’s Scout’ or ‘Girl’s Guide’ take some old school lessons from him/her if you can’t find any professional teacher.
10. QUICK DECISION AND EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS: Most injuries happen due to panic. Try to be calm while taking decision about your moves in case of an emergency. If there is an injury a quick decision can help. The emergency numbers shown in the news channels, announced on the radio or printed in the paper are not going to magically appear when needed hence they have to be stored in your cell phone or written down on a paper you will always carry along.
Be alert, be safe. I would love to get some more tips so if you have any please share.