Every person has crises at some stage of their lives. It is unavoidable, no matter how careful or how organised we are, that things will go wrong at some stage. But there's a lot you can do to stop a crisis from becoming a major catastrophe.
Anyone home? If you arrive home and the front door is open, and it shouldn't be, someone has probably broken in. What's more, they might still be inside. Don't go in, even though that is what you would want to do instinctively. Phone your security company, the police or go to the neighbours. Burglars are usually armed and mostly dangerous. Confronting a burglar might cost you a lot more than the VCR and the TV.
Stopping at an accident scene. Many accidents happen as a result of the traffic congestion around an accident scene. People drive by slowly to gawk, and their attention is not on the road or on other motorists. If you are the first person to get to the accident scene, pull well off the highway, switch on your hazard lights and call the traffic police. Keep off the highway, as there is fast-moving traffic there and it often happens that more vehicles slam into those involved in the initial accident, causing a pile-up.
Learn first aid. If you have knowledge of the Heimlich manoeuvre, CPR and basic first aid, you will be able to do something if someone around you chokes, has a heart attack, or is injured in some other way. As a result of your intervention, you could save someone's life.
Get AZT in case of rape. If you, or someone close to you has been raped, get AZT as a first priority. This is available at most chemists. Initially getting to a safe place is the only thing that is more important. The last thing you want, when you're dealing with the trauma of having been raped, is an HIV-positive test on top of everything else.
Get away from scenes of crime. If you see police raiding a club, or people being evicted from a block of flats or a bomb has just exploded, get away from the scene as fast as possible. There may be a second bomb, or there may be bullets flying around, or even just pickpockets converging on unsuspecting bystanders. Get away from volatile situations as fast as you can.
Keep cellphone battery full. If your cellphone is loaded and you get hijacked or stuck in a lift or your car breaks down, you can call for help. If you are not on a cellphone contract, make sure that you always have airtime available. Also keep emergency numbers stored in your cellphone. This can be a real lifesaver. Imagine being bundled into the trunk of a car and not being able to call for help, because your cellphone battery has gone flat.
Hand over your possessions. Our instincts are to hang on to our possessions, so when someone grabs our handbag or our car keys, we instinctively do the tug-of-war thing. This could cost you your life. Insurance can replace handbags and cars, but not your life. Handing over car keys when being hijacked has saved many a person's life. This is the wise thing to do. Another thing to keep in mind is not to stare intently at your attacker, as this might make them think you could identify them later and they might want to silence you.
Stopping to confront another driver. If someone's been flashing their lights at you and making rude signs and swearing at you while you're driving, whatever you do, don't stop your car by the side of the road to have it out with them. People have lost their lives in this way, or landed in hospitals with fractured skulls. Drive to the nearest police station and hoot loudly and continuously until someone comes out or the other person drives off.
Have a fire extinguisher at home/in the car. Fire extinguishers come in small aerosol cans. If your car catches fire, or there is a kitchen fire in your home, you will be very grateful for these. It is much easier to deal with repainting a kitchen wall, than rebuilding the entire house.
Go for trauma counselling. If something traumatic has happened to you, don't wait a year or two until the effects of the trauma have a real impact on your life before you do something about it. There are counsellors in South Africa who specialise in dealing with trauma survivors – get yourself to one, for your own sake and for the sake of those around you. – (Susan Erasmus, Health24, September 2006)