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The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster…
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The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why (2008)

by Amanda Ripley

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Quick read. Good breadth of stories for the topic. Somewhat rational approach. However, Amanda jumps around and it's tough to tell right away which stores are anecdotal and which she will elaborate upon. ( )
  LongTrang117 | Oct 6, 2017 |
This book is *fascinating*. Exploring how and why we do what we do when disaster strikes, from terrorist bombings to hurricanes to car crashes, The Unthinkable was so interesting! We worry about unlikely worst case scenarios (plane crashes) while failing to prepare for the everyday possibilities that cause harm far more often (house fires, heart disease). The author talks about how what we do in an emergency is often illogical and unhelpful and how to be prepared for the unexpected. There are definitely some practical tips and experiences to learn from here, but reading about our "disaster personality" is just as compelling. ( )
  KimMeyer | Sep 7, 2017 |
Brenda's Review - This book is a nice combination of disaster stories and statistics about why some people survive while others don’t. This book is chalked full of tips on how to make your life safer in a disaster and practical things to do to help yourself prepare or as the military puts it, the “Eight P’s”: proper prior planning and preparation prevents piss-poor performance. There are exercises that can help you prepare for a crisis that will give you an advantage and last but not least know some simple tips like: get to know your neighbors - they will be your first responder, lower your anxiety level, lose weight, calculate your risk and train your brain.
This is one of my favorite passages in the book – and a good example of information you will learn by reading this book:
If the leading causes of death in the USA are: 1. Heart disease, 2. Cancer and 3. Then do you start each day with 20 minutes of meditation? Do you work out for at least 30 minutes a day? When you swim in the ocean are you more terrified of getting sunburned than you are of getting bit by a shark? ( )
  konastories | Jul 5, 2016 |
An examination of the survivors of recent and past disasters - from 9/11 to plane crashes to hostage crises and tsunamis - and the common themes in their reactions, resilience, preparation, and other factors that led to their survival where others around them perished. A really interesting read that also gave me some take aways for being prepared in the future: preparation (e.g.fire drills, reading the airplane brochures, etc). ( )
  sylliu | Feb 12, 2016 |
This is a good book to read if you like historical nonfiction, but not if you are looking for practical how-to information. Here are some takeaways but most were not new to me.

1. GET OUT! In the vast majority of the disasters the author recounts, those who survived didn't freeze, didn't take time to gather their belongings and didn't listen to authorities telling them to stay put. They immediately GOT OUT--whether it be a sinking ship, a fire or a terrorist attack.

2. Everyone reading this is a first responder--whether you have training or not. We are the ones who will have to make decisions in the moments before the professionals arrive. In major disasters like tsunamis or hurricanes, the professionals may not arrive for several days.

3. Don't be courteous in a disaster. People tend to be unusually courteous and gallant in disasters, letting others go first. This can waste valuable time. Again, just get out.

4. Drills are extremely important and shouldn't be taken lightly. You don't want to have to do too much thinking in an emergency. Practicing over and over again will help you get out quickly.

5. When you stay in a hotel, always take the stairs after checking in so you know where they are. Don't use an elevator in an emergency.

6. On a plane, pay attention to the safety instructions and read the card in the seatback in front of you. Professional disaster experts do this EVERY time they fly. They know every plane model is different.

I couldn't find the accompanying web site promised by the author, just a few blog posts. I also didn't like the author's "anecdote within an anecdote" method of writing. Made it very hard to get practical tips. On the positive side, I commend the author for the hands-on research she did (extreme driving school,flight simulation, etc.). This might be a good read for people who like nonfiction thrillers like "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer.
  Terri_Frank | Aug 15, 2015 |
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On the morning of December 6, 1917, a bright, windless day, a French freighter called the Mont Blanc began to slowly pull out of the Halifax harbor in Nova Scotia.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307352897, Hardcover)

It lurks in the corner of our imagination, almost beyond our ability to see it: the possibility that a tear in the fabric of life could open up without warning, upending a house, a skyscraper, or a civilization.

Today, nine out of ten Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families. How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims? Will our upbringing, our gender, our personality–anything we’ve ever learned, thought, or dreamed of–ultimately matter?
    
Amanda Ripley, an award-winning journalist for Time magazine who has covered some of the most devastating disasters of our age, set out to discover what lies beyond fear and speculation. In this magnificent work of investigative journalism, Ripley retraces the human response to some of history’s epic disasters, from the explosion of the Mont Blanc munitions ship in 1917–one of the biggest explosions before the invention of the atomic bomb–to a plane crash in England in 1985 that mystified investigators for years, to the journeys of the 15,000 people who found their way out of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Then, to understand the science behind the stories, Ripley turns to leading brain scientists, trauma psychologists, and other disaster experts, formal and informal, from a Holocaust survivor who studies heroism to a master gunfighter who learned to overcome the effects of extreme fear.

Finally, Ripley steps into the dark corners of her own imagination, having her brain examined by military researchers and experiencing through realistic simulations what it might be like to survive a plane crash into the ocean or to escape a raging fire.
    
Ripley comes back with precious wisdom about the surprising humanity of crowds, the elegance of the brain’s fear circuits, and the stunning inadequacy of many of our evolutionary responses. Most unexpectedly, she discovers the brain’s ability to do much, much better, with just a little help.

The Unthinkable escorts us into the bleakest regions of our nightmares, flicks on a flashlight, and takes a steady look around. Then it leads us home, smarter and stronger than we were before.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:46 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Nine out of ten Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families. How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims? Will our upbringing, our gender, our personality--anything we've ever learned, thought, or dreamed of--ultimately matter? Journalist Amanda Ripley set out to discover what lies beyond fear and speculation, retracing the human response to some of history's epic disasters. She comes back with wisdom about the surprising humanity of crowds, the elegance of the brain's fear circuits, and the stunning inadequacy of many of our evolutionary responses. Most unexpectedly, she discovers the brain's ability to do much, much better, with just a little help.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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