People will help each other because there is a sense of camaraderie that springs up, which is a survival tactic. You help them because you know you might need their help later. And that is incredibly reassuring.
Well, there isn't any one profile of a survivor, but there are profiles. Depending on the disaster you have certain advantages and disadvantages just based on who you are. Women are more likely to survive hurricanes. In hurricanes the deaths come from floods and people driving through high water. That's much more likely to be a man who dies that way.
The evil genius of terrorism is that that maximizes unfamiliarity, imaginability, suffering, scale of destruction, unfairness. It's really important to understand why terrorism is so frightening because it is a psychological war and until you understand it and try to reduce the dread, until then you become like a force multiplier for the terrorists inadvertently because you'll tend to overreact to terrorist attacks because the dread factor is so high.
People with military experience seem to do very well in these situations. They've been taught that they can control their destiny, which is half the battle. They also have some experience in getting out of bad situations even if just through training. They know they have to make a plan and follow it and execute it.
We don't talk about that at all as a country. I think that most people assume that there's nothing they could do if a nuclear bomb went off in their city. And that's just not true. Most people would survive most terrorist nuclear attacks because the bombs would likely be much smaller than those we were dealing with in the Cold War.
Women in particular seem to say things like, "I'm sure I'd be the one screaming and not moving in an emergency." I don't think that's the case. People who've been through really horrible life-or-death situations say that nobody behaves the way they would have expected. But that said, there are predictors.
The health of your family or your office or your city directly affects the health of it after. The better you are at handling high-stress situations with little information, those skills lead to resilience and the ability to recover afterward.
By sort of combining the research of a lot of smart people, I came up with an equation for dread [dread=uncontrollability+unfamiliarity+imaginability+suffering+scale of destruction+unfairness]. The dread equation is a simplification, but it's a way to explain why we fear something so much when it is so unlikely. Part of it is the lack of control. That's why we're more scared of plane crashes than car crashes even though we know rationally which is more dangerous.
Resilience is a precious skill. People who have it tend to also have three underlying advantages: a believe that they can influence life events; a tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil; and a conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences.
My anxiety about disasters is lower. The more you know, the less scary any of this stuff is. And that's my hope for the book. I want to get people's attention and tell them very valuable and ultimately hopeful information, and you find out nothing is as scary as your imagination.