How to Survive an Explosion

Monday morning bore witness to a horrific explosion in the Massey Energy Company’s West Virginia mine. The death toll has been rising since, and many of us shudder at the thought of such a fate. And, while mining is one of the most dangerous jobs out there, there is still a chance that you could be in or around an explosion at some point in your future. If or when that happens, you should be prepared so that you can escape debonairly to safety like Jeff Bridges in “Blown Away.” It’s a little bit like how to survive an earthquake, actually.  Here’s how: 

Take cover

A lot of what causes you injuries from a bomb is the associated shrapnel and shock wave from the explosion. Shrapnel – bits of metal and other detritus – explodes out away from the bomb acting like bullets, ripping through targets. Some types of explosive devices incorporate shrapnel into them specifically for this purpose while others, say a fire at a gas station, may only have incidental shrapnel. Obviously getting behind something sturdy such as a brick wall or cement barrier is ideal for blocking shrapnel. Additionally, distancing yourself as much as possible will decrease the velocity at which the shrapnel will hit you and/or your barrier. 

To protect yourself from the percussion wave created by the explosion, you will adopt a similar tactic. It’s worth noting here that the overpressure wave is actually the most dangerous part of the bomb at times. Dvice notes here that the overpressure wave can easily kill a soldier – even one wearing a bomb-proof suit – by puncturing or collapsing his lungs. In order to mitigate this factor, get as far away and behind as many barriers to buffer the wave as possible.  

Get low and protect your valuables

We’re talking, of course, about your head and vital organs. If you’ve got a third hand, use that for your master-piece. If you’re able to distance yourself from the bomb before it blows up so that you aren’t thrown in dramatic slow motion away from the blast, you’re going to want to get low to the ground. Lay flat on the ground and point your head away from the blast. Curl up and push your elbows in tightly to your sides to protect your viscera while tucking your head into your own body to protect that. Basically, you’re going to want to point your but in the direction of the blast. Hopefully the barriers you’ve found will buffer any harmful shrapnel or percussion waves before they full-on spank you.


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Find sustenance

If you are in a blast, and are trapped in the rubble, you’re going to need to wait it out for help. Worst case scenario, you cut your own trapped limb off with a crappy camping knife. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. 

Obviously, the first thing you want to do is call for help if you’ve got a cell phone or a radio. Hell, maybe you’re even reading this on your iPhone right now. Helpful, huh? If you don’t have any communication with the outside world, though, there are a few things you want to consider. 

At this point, your biggest threats are 1) internal bleeding 2) shock or hypothermia 3) hydration. Assess yourself for internal injuries by mentally checking off your body parts – how they feel and if they’re working. Also, be on the lookout for signs of internal injuries such as vomiting blood, bloody bowel movements, pain in your torso, or a feeling of rigid or tenseness in your abdomen. If you suspect you are injured internally, do your best to stay calm as the stress response will exacerbate the problem. 

For shock and hypothermia, you may want to try some calming exercises to refocus your mind, and you’ll want to gather as much clothing as you can around you. Bundle your core as that is the most important part of your body to keep warm. You can also rub your sides up and down – the warmer your core gets, the warmer the rest of you will become. 

Finally, for hydration, there’s little you can do if you’re not close to clean dirnking water. The best thing to do is to be careful of what you drink. Maybe there’s a stream of water from a broken pipe, but unless you know that water is clean, avoid drinking it until absolutely necessary. You can also, at this point, use a coffee filter or even closely knit clothing to clean some debris from the water.   

 

 

 

 

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