IN ANY UNEXPECTED CRISIS, THERE'S AN ODD SENSE OF LETHARGY. In other words, your brain is trying to sort out new and disturbing information, and it doesn't act fast. "The most startling thing I learned about 9/11 was the slowness with which people moved," says Ripley. "Many took the time to turn off their computers." But you can fight off that stupor — simply by knowing to expect it.
PEOPLE RARELY KNOW WHERE TO FIND AN EXIT — IN OFFICES, HOTELS, PLANES. "I always learn a couple of exits, so if I'm in a hotel and there's a fire, I know where to go," says Ripley. "Plane-crash survivors do the same thing." She also suggests keeping a pair of sneakers at work — high heels slowed women down on 9/11.
SOMETIMES IT HELPS TO BE A WOMAN IN A DISASTER. Women tend to fare better than men in events like hurricanes and floods. Why? "They're more likely to evacuate when they're advised to do so," says Ripley. "Men tend to take more risks." But to be fair to guys, she adds, research shows that men — especially blue-collar single men — are more likely to do heroic things, like risk their lives to save others. Cheers to that.
SURVIVING BY THE NUMBERS:
91% of Americans live in places with a moderate to high risk of natural disaster or terrorism.
65% of those who died in natural disasters from '85 to '99 came from undeveloped nations.
9% of heroic acts recorded from '89 to '93 were performed by women.