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The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Str... ((NEW))


Ripley searches for patterns in human behavior by interviewing hundreds of people who lived through catastrophes. Quick-witted survivors are surprisingly anomalous. One fellow who made it through a horrific aircraft disaster in 1977 happened to be sitting on the runway reading an in-flight safety instruction card when another plane crashed into his. He grabbed his wife, leapt through a hole in the fuselage, and turned to see his fellow passengers remaining docilely in their seats, immobile. Most of them died within minutes as fire swept through the wreckage.




The unthinkable: Who survives when disaster str...


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At the moment of the explosion, an Anglican priest and scholar named Samuel Henry Prince happened to be eating breakfast at a restaurant near the port. He ran to help, opening up his church as a triage station. It was, strangely enough, Prince's second disaster in five years. He had responded to another local cataclysm in 1912, when a luxury cruise liner called the Titanic had sunk some five hundred miles off the coast of Halifax. Back then, Prince had performed burials at sea in the frigid waters.


Writing a book about disasters may sound voyeuristic or dark, and there are times when it was. But the truth is, I was mesmerized by this subject because it gave me hope. You spend enough time covering tragedies and you start to look for a foothold. I knew there was no way to prevent all catastrophes from happening. I knew it made sense to prepare for them and work to minimize the losses. We should install smoke detectors, buy insurance, and pack "go bags." But none of those things ever felt very satisfying.


I never expected to use what I had learned anytime soon. I usually show up at disaster sites after they happen, in time for the regrets and recriminations, but not the shaking or the burning. But I was wrong, in a way. From a physiological perspective, everyday life is full of tiny disaster drills. Ironically, after writing a book about disasters, I feel less anxious overall, not more. I am a much better judge of risk now that I understand my own warped equation for dread. Having studied dozens of plane crashes, I'm more relaxed when I'm flying. And no matter how many Code-Orange-be-afraid-be-very-afraid alerts I see on the evening news, I feel some amount of peace having already glimpsed the worst-case scenario. The truth, it turns out, is usually better than the nightmare.


Then there are the survivors of disasters, the witnesses who channel the voices of the victims. They were there, sitting next to them, seeing what they saw. And afterward, the survivors spend some portion of their lives thinking about why they lived when so many did not. They were lucky, all of them. Luck is unreliable. But almost all of the survivors I have met say there are things they wish they had known, things they want you to know.


Natural disasters like Ian are one of the most common causes for families to experience simultaneous deaths. Many families are prepared for the loss of a single parent or grandparent. They may have estate plans and guardianship designations in place to direct what happens after an unexpected death. But when an accident, natural disaster, or other event takes multiple family members at the same time, it raises questions about how their estates will be handled.


This can get complicated when an accident or natural disaster kills two or more family members at the same time. The question then becomes whether a probate attorney can prove that the would-be beneficiary survived longer than the deceased. Sometimes this comes down to medical records or death certificates to complete the grisly task of proving who died first.


One week ago, a 200-meter span of a bridge in Genoa collapsed, killing 43 people. It was an unthinkable, terrible tragedy. Victims include kids, French tourists returning home, and three Chilean immigrants. You can read their stories here, I recommend that because whenever a disaster is becoming the center of a political firestorm (as in this case) it is always important to remember what is truly the most important thing: the lives that were taken away.


In order to provide the best treatment in such a complicated setting, special adaptations must be made to the treatment algorithm of the ophthalmology team. In terms of individual trauma cases, the victim of a suicide bombing attack is no different from any other eye trauma patient. The sudden presentation of large numbers of injured patients, however, presents two types of challenges: the logistical one of rapidly processing masses of casualties through the system and the medical one of providing the best possible trauma care to severely wounded patients [14]. According to our protocol, all patients who complain of eye symptoms and all unconscious patients who sustain head or face injuries must be checked by an ophthalmologist. This requires special disaster on-call lists of ophthalmologists who are able to arrive to the hospital on extremely short notice since, thanks to the highly efficient organization of our Red Shield ambulance facilities, blast victims usually arrive at the hospital within minutes and are hurried to either diagnostic tests or directly to operating theaters. Upon arrival to the ED, every victim of a terrorist attack is triaged by a senior surgeon who synchronizes the activities of the multifaceted operation. The ophthalmologists already present in the hospital and the ones on-call who arrive to the ED are in contact with that surgeon in order to expeditiously locate the victims with ocular injuries, examine them, and send them to the operation theaters, intensive care units, imaging studies or home. There is a directive in our department that all available staff members must contact the hospital immediately upon learning about any suicide bombing attack to check whether their services are required. In the event of large-scale attacks, they are prepared to be recruited to assist in triaging and in treating all the victims, not just those with ocular injuries. The triage procedure is the key to the successful management of large trauma events: the most important rule is that all patients must be checked by the ophthalmologist wherever they are located on the hospital premises. Trauma patients invariably require urgent treatment and some are sent directly from the ER to either imaging units or immediately to the trauma surgical unit. The senior ophthalmologist on the premises must contact trauma registration services, get a list of all admitted patients (usually assigned numbers upon admission) and make sure that each and every one of them is examined, even during emergency surgery or during imaging interventions for non-ophthalmological injuries. When an open globe is suspected, the eye is immediately patched, and the finding is reported to the surgeon in charge of the patient: the staff is instructed not to intervene in the treatment of the eye. Further evaluation is done only when it is certain that there is no danger of expulsive hemorrhage.


The Republican's blind belief in deregulation has lead us to a disaster which may very well match that of the Great Depression. Phil Gramm slipped the Commodities Futures Modernization Act in as a rider to the Omnibus Spending Bill 2000 (a 19,000 page document) in order to get it passed (it failed to pass in two previous tries when subjected to scrutiny and an open vote). This CFMA is what legalized and allowed unregulated trading in Credit Default Swaps which brought down the Financial Services industry( -phil.html). Republicans cannot be trusted to run anything least of all our Government. Their belief in deregulation is founded on lobbyist dollars and a belief that Wall Street can do whatever it wants and it won't hurt the economy. This is idiocey.


Mumia et al: "We" are not "giving THEM energy" when our predator state and disaster capitalism remain strongly in place. Watch in the next weeks as Obama picks his team from the good old boy servants of the super wealthy just as Clinton did before him.


I agree with Mr. Galbraith that we need to return to federal regulation and oversight of the financial sector. I'm 62 years old and in my view, this country has been going downhill since Ronald Reagan was elected. I used to believe that the government was working to protect citizens from environmental hazards, dangerous pharmaceuticals, usurious lenders, financial chicanery, natural disasters, pandemics and epidemics-all the things government is good at protecting its people from. I believed, as an RN. that eventually we would have national healthcare. When I was young, health insurance was provided by NON profit companies and it was good. I watched it get worse and worse after Reagan ushered in managed care which turned out to be managed money. Suddenly, health insurance companies had stockholders and were no longer Non profits. After Reagan was elected, I noticed a huge increase in the number of homeless people in San Francisco. This began when Reagan (as Governor) closed the state hospitals in California and declared that communities would care for their mentally ill populations. Unfortunately, the funds for such care were not forthcoming. The conservative free market principles are about making money. A government has to have a social contract with its citizens, and once upon a time our government did. It has disappeared under Republican rule. Our government must renew the social contract and repair the broken trust of its people. This won't happen under a McCain presidency. As a conservative, he will continue the failed policies of Reagan and Bush. That's why this election is so important. Senator Obama offers the possibility of change and renewal of the social contract.