- Popular disaster and survival movies often put characters into seemingly inescapable situations.
- Some disasters depicted in movies can happen in real life, and preparation can increase your chance of survival.
- When trapped underwater in a car, it’s easier to break the side window than it is the front one.
- If attacked by a shark, you’ll want to fight back, not play dead.
Disasterous, apocalyptic, and survival movies offer a unique type of entertainment that throws characters into seemingly inescapable situations. But oftentimes these situations can occur in real life, even if they don’t seem likely. While watching, you might even find yourself wondering if you could survive if put in a similar position – and with a bit of knowledge and preparation, you just might increase your potential chances of surviving a disaster.
Here’s how to survive 10 life-threatening disasters you might’ve seen in movies.
Drinking enough fresh water while lost at sea will help keep you alive.
- Huayi Brothers
Countless survival movies strand characters at sea, giving them few resources to use to survive. In “Adrift,” Shailene Woodley’s character gets trapped in a hurricane on her fiancé’s boat and finds herself stranded at sea. The movie is inspired by harrowing true events and a woman’s incredible story of surviving 41 days while lost at sea.
If you were ever in a similar situation, drinking enough water would be extremely important. At sea, drinking salt water can make you very sick, so Survival Life recommends collecting rainwater and drinking it sparingly. To prevent over-drinking, it’s best not to expend too much energy and to remain as calm as possible despite the situation.
In cases where a boat is leaking, CNN advises people ensure the drain plug is closed before immediately finding the source of the leak. In an emergency, you can repair small cracks in a boat using duct tape.
You’d also want to use your resources to create a makeshift shelter from tarps, sails, or extra clothing. This would help protect your skin on hot, sunny days and keep you warm on cold ones. And anyone stranded at sea should always be on the lookout for land. Sightings of birds or light, shallow water may indicate nearby land, which could lead to your rescue.
Drop to the ground and cover your head during an earthquake.
- Sobras International Pictures
People in the movie “Aftershock” encounter a major earthquake that forces them to flee falling debris and face a looming tsunami. But major earthquakes are far from just a movie disaster, especially for those living in places that are at high risk for earthquakes.
According to Ready.gov, a public service campaign from the Department of Homeland Security, people in quake-prone areas should make a communication plan so they’ll know how to get in contact with loved ones should an emergency occur. The Ready campaign also advises putting together a supply kit that can last at least three days. It should include canned food, bottled water, emergency medications, a flashlight, and a fire extinguisher.
During an earthquake, the protocol is to drop to the ground, cover your head and neck, and stay in this position until the shaking has passed. If you are driving, stop your car away from trees, buildings, or anything that could fall on your vehicle. For people in areas prone to tsunamis following an earthquake, residents should get to high ground as soon as the earthquake ends.
Cars drive faster than flowing lava.
- Universal Pictures
Like Pierce Brosnan’s character in “Dante’s Peak,” volcanologists can make predictions about when a volcano will erupt to help nearby populations evacuate prior to a disaster.
If you find yourself near a volcano that could erupt, keep a mask and goggles in your car to protect your eyes and face from ash. Also keep a full tank of gas – that can later help you evacuate in an emergency. Lava can flow up to 40 mph, so you can typically escape lava by driving away from it in your car, but you don’t want to run out of gas. Anyone in an eruption situation should also be careful to take advised routes.
According to National Geographic, if you decide to evacuate an erupting volcano, wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants with your mask to your protect your body from ash and lava. If you choose to stay instead, ensure that all of your doors, windows, and chimney are sealed so ash cannot enter your home. To prevent your home from collapsing, you may need to sweep the ash off of your roof since it can add a lot of weight.
Make sure you know all of the evacuation routes in a burning building.
- 20th Century Fox
No one plans to find themselves in a “Towering Inferno”-esque fire in a 138-story building, but it’s always important to know any building’s evacuation plan in case of a fire or other emergency.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, apartment buildings and tall office buildings should have fire drills each year so everyone in the space knows the evacuation route in case of an emergency. If a fire breaks out, elevators are not to be used, so make sure you know where the nearest staircases are located. Those who cannot climb many stairs should make sure to create an alternate plan for escaping in an emergency.
The key to surviving a burning building is to act quickly. At the first sign of fire, avoid spending time gathering possessions or packing a bag. As you escape the fire, stay low to the ground to avoid inhaling too much smoke and close doors behind you to prevent the fire and smoke from spreading more quickly.
Being buried alive would be a challenging disaster to escape.
Taphephobia is the fairly common fear of being buried alive. For people living in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was a real possibility that you could be buried pre-maturely and wake up inside a coffin. Today’s medical advances mean doctors tend to know for sure when you’ve died, making being buried alive unlikely.
But if you find yourself buried alive like Uma Thurman’s bride character in “Kill Bill: Volume 2,” there are some things you can do to try to escape. The CBC reported that, according to an 1896 book called “Premature Burial: How it may be prevented,” you wouldn’t want to scream. Oxygen is precious and shouldn’t be wasted- the book estimated there’s only two hours’ worth of oxygen in a coffin.
Like the bride, your best bet would probably be to crack the coffin’s lid and work your way up through the dirt, but you’d want to cover your face before you trying to break the top. The book advises covering your face with your shirt to help prevent yourself from being suffocated by the six feet of dirt above. The book suggests tying your shirt around your head to protect your nose and mouth.
The goal would be to sit up so dirt could fill the empty space behind you. The next goal would be to stand up, so you’d want to continue pushing dirt toward the areas to the sides of your feet.
But this scenario isn’t necessarily survivable. “Mythbusters” tested out this common movie scenario and decided not to continue on with the experiment after host Jamie Hyneman’s coffin began to buckle under only some of the dirt’s weight. They concluded that they don’t believe someone could survive more than a few hours after being buried alive.
Hide in a windowless, interior room during a tornado.
- Warner Bros.
To stay safe in a tornado, don’t follow the actions of the storm chasers in “Twister.” Tornadoes are a real threat to many individuals around the world, so it’s important to know how to act when a spiraling storm comes.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, you should first take shelter in a safe location (which was selected prior to a storm). Your best bet is to go to the smallest room on the lowest level in your home where there aren’t any windows, like a closet or interior room in your basement. Hide under a sturdy piece of furniture or cover your head with objects like a blanket or mattress.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to be home when a tornado hits, either quickly get to a safe building or take shelter in a low, flat location. Keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to go under a bridge or other type of infrastructure in case it collapses.
Keeping warm and wearing layers is the key to surviving extremely cold weather.
- 20th Century Fox
The world in “The Day After Tomorrow” faces a variety of severe weather conditions, such as hail, tornadoes, and extreme rises in sea levels. New York City experiences gigantic floods and then completely freezes over.
To survive extremely cold weather conditions, you’d want to find shelter that can protect you from wind and ice while providing additional insulation. Outward Bound suggests a layering method for clothing. Wearing a lot of layers allows you to regulate your body temperature more easily. You’d also want to avoid cotton clothing since it loses most of its insulating power when it gets wet.
Even if you have access to food in this hypothetical disaster scenario, you’d need a lot of calories to survive extreme cold. In cold weather, your body can use 3,000 or more calories per day to keep itself warm, so consuming more calories means your body can better generate more heat.
Fight back against a shark to escape an attack.
In the classic movie, “Jaws,” a great white shark terrorizes and kills beachgoers in a New England town.
Even though many people fear sharks, it’s pretty unlikely that you’d be killed by one. According to National Geographic, only five people are killed by sharks each year, and you have a one in 3.7 million chance of being killed by a shark in your entire lifetime.
However, it’s always good to be prepared for the worst, just in case. If you’re in the ocean and you get injured, it’s best to get out of the water. Sharks can smell blood from over a mile away and they’re able to track down its source. It’s also best to stay out of the water if you spot large groups of fish or other marine animals, since sharks typically eat them and could be close behind.
If you do spot a shark, get out of the water immediately or move toward a group – sharks are more likely to attack individuals, National Geographic says.
If a shark does attack you, don’t play dead. You need to be aggressive to get away: attack the shark’s sensitive areas like their eyes, gills, or snout. Be careful if attacking too close to the shark’s mouth, though, as it could accidentally lead to you swing body parts into the shark’s mouth. If possible, use an object, like diving equipment or a snorkel, to attack the shark.
Once you get away, control bleeding by applying pressure and seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
If you find yourself stuck under ice, try to control your breathing.
- Fox 2000 Pictures
“Breakthrough” is an upcoming film based on the real-life survival story of John Smith, an eighth-grader who survived being trapped under ice for 15 minutes. So, yes, it is possible to survive this traumatic situation.
If you find yourself stuck under ice, avoid thrashing around and try to control your breathing. Then, turn toward where you fell from, as it’s likely the direction of ice that’s strong enough to hold your weight.
Using both hands, hold the ice and kick your legs until your body is horizontal and you’re able to pull yourself onto your elbows. Then when you do climb out, lay flat to evenly distribute your weight and hopefully prevent the ice from breaking again.
Some apps might still work on your smartphone during an apocalypse.
If you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic wasteland similar to what Will Smith’s character experiences in “I Am Legend,” you may be able to survive on your own for quite some time.
Smartphones might lose all service during an apocalypse, but they can still be a handy tool. Satellites will likely still be working, so you might be able to use some GPS and the compass app on your phone. Both of these features could be immensely useful in dire circumstances.
Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell told National Geographic that, in the event of a zombie apocalypse sort of scenario, you should first try to get out of the city. In the countryside, you’d be able to grow your own fruits and vegetables, hunt or fish for food, and drink fresh river water.
Everyone should have a bag packed for extreme emergencies; it should have enough supplies to keep you going for three days. Such kits should have canned food, bottled water, a knife, and other essentials. Preparing this in advance is recommended in case disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes strike.
It’s easier to escape quicksand than you’d think.
In “The Princess Bride,” there’s a heroic quicksand rescue. But a quicksand escape doesn’t need to be nearly that dramatic, especially because humans can’t really drown in quicksand – they float.
Unlike what happens in the movie, you don’t want someone else to pull you out, since they can only dislodge the upper part of your body. Instead, you should start wiggling your legs to create a pocket. Then lean back to distribute your weight. If you’re partially submerged, it can be helpful to get rid of your backpack or any objects that could further be weighing you down. Use a backstroke motion to propel yourself backward until your legs are free, and you should roll away from the quicksand.
Escaping through a side window could save your life if a car is sinking.
- State Farm/Flickr
From James Bond in “A View to Kill” to the ghost couple in “Beetlejuice,” filmmakers have been crashing cars into bodies of water for a long time. These types of accidents also occur in real life.
Ken Burton, a survival-skills teacher, told the Washington Post that you can break free from a sinking car in less than 30 seconds.
He said the first step is to open your window while you’re falling or as soon as you hit the water. As the car sinks, you should keep your seat belt on and take deep breaths until the water is nearly up to your mouth. From there, you should be able to open the car door to escape, since the pressure inside and outside the car will have stabilized. As you remove your seat-belt, hold on to the steering wheel so you don’t float up to the ceiling. Then pull yourself out of the door or window and swim to the surface.
If all these tips failed and you still weren’t able to open a car window or the door to escape, you could try to break one of the side windows. These windows are easier to break than the windshield. It may even be useful to keep an emergency window-breaking tool in your car just in case.
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