How to Handle An Emergency

Emergency Situation

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?


Stay Calm and Collected

Although emergencies require rapid action, if you are faced with an emergency situation, the most important thing that you need to remember is to stay calm. It is usually easier said than done, but panicking will accomplish nothing and may cost you valuable time. If you panic, you risk complicating an already bad situation by making it even worse, so each and every emergency situation needs to be handled calmly.

The reason you feel panicked in an emergency is the result of your body’s automatic overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol. The cortisol goes to the brain and slows down the pre-frontal cortex, which is the region responsible for planning complex action.

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 your local emergency number 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 situkeep calmation, delays in calling emergency or performing basic first aid can be disastrous.

By overriding your body’s reaction, you can continue to access your critical thinking faculties. You won’t be responding from emotion, but from rational thought.

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.

Remaining calm will help medical personnel to respond more quickly. If you are panicking during an emergency situation, it will take longer for you to call emergency personnel and relay important information to them and they may not be able to understand what you are saying. If you remain calm you can clearly explain what first aid care sick or injured individuals might need.

Time is usually crucial when administering emergency medical care. If there is a medical situation that you cannot remedy or help, at least your quick and calm contact with an emergency operator can help medical technicians get there sooner. If you panic, you will definitely complicate an already stressful situation because people surrounding you are also likely to panic if they see you upset.

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, likUntitlede 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 emergency number 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 emergency right away.

No amount of knowledge or training can adequately prepare you to handle an emergency situation. The real test of whether or not you handle the situation correctly won’t occur until you’ve actually experienced an emergency. Sometimes individuals who always assumed they would panic when faced with a crisis are able to remain calm when an emergency actually occurs.



If you want the best chance of remaining calm in an emergency situation, practice what you would do if an emergency should occur. Run drills with your family and enact different scenarios each time. What would you do if you were trapped in the basement after a tornado? What would you do if there were a flood rushing your way? How would you react if you were trapped in your home and a family member was injured or ill? By practicing different drills, you’ll be better prepared should the situation occur.

Practice is very important when it comes to dealing with emergencies.  Most first aid certifications onlydrill 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 emergency, 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 emergency 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.

It doesn’t really matter what emergency situation you are faced with — remaining calm is always important if you want the best possible outcome. Always keep in mind that you need to remain level-headed during a crisis and that an emergency will be handled best without hysteria and excitement.

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!

Emergency Guideline


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