It’s the reality none of us ever want to think about, but it is, very much, a reality: the possibility that someday you’ll end up in a collapsing building. There are multiple reasons why a building might collapse: earthquakes, fires, floods, and landslides. They might also collapse if they’re old, haven’t been maintained properly, or have been subject to illegal renovations.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take so that you can escape with as few injuries as possible. The first one—to prepare an emergency kit—is one that isn’t applied “in the moment,” but rather one which must be taken care of beforehand. Thus, if you live or work in a building, you absolutely must have an emergency rescue tool kit on the premises. This kit must include, among other items, several pairs of work gloves and eye goggles, a face mask, a hard hat, a standard-sized crowbar, several sets of heavy-duty wire cutters, a hacksaw or other multi-use blade, a headlamp, and an axe whose handle is made out of non-conducting material. It must also include a small sledgehammer or heavy framing hammer.
If you’re in a collapsed building, you must remain as calm as possible. If you start panicking, not only will you use up a lot of energy, but you’ll also be too distracted to realize what’s happening. It’s only when you’re calm that you can properly take stock of your surroundings. Gain control of the rescue kit, and use the crowbar to pry doors open and lift and move objects. If you need to break glass, a crowbar will also help you prevent additional cuts. Use the hammer to break open brick walls, open locked doors, and bash studs of metal and wood out of the way. The bolt cutters are used for cutting cables, and the hacksaw for cutting through objects. Use the axe to cut through flat surfaces. Please be advised that axes and hammers can harm you if you aren’t careful.
If the building is on fire, the fire will spread; this will cut off your remaining possibilities for exiting the building. Smoke is dangerous because of its components: particles of objects that haven’t completely burned down, and which enter into your lungs and respiratory systems; toxic vapors and drops of liquid; and toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide. Inhaling smoke is incredibly dangerous. Fire is also dangerous because it reduces the amount of oxygen in the air and burns through your throat and respiratory tract. To avoid fires, climb the fire escapes.
If there’s one takeaway you get from this discussion, it’s that you should stay calm. Don’t let panic end your life prematurely. Instead, take control of your reactions, adapt to your surroundings, and get the hell out of there.