Hillhikerz wrote:"ability to stay calm and process the situation " - how does one learn this on there own
That's hard to say, because everyone is different. Some will live by their decisions, some will die.
I'll give you a fairly recent example:
I'm in Sonoma County. I'm sure you know about our fires back in Oct. Lots of lessons have come out of this in what to do and what not to do.
First, mistake or not, they didn't send out official alerts. The rationale was that too many people fleeing would cause a panic and overload the roadways. It was mistakenly believed that all alerts would be county-wide and couldn't be selectively targeted to areas of imminent danger. Had people all moved at once, it would've been chaos, and I know people that were in imminent evacuation areas and had to run for their lives while stuck in traffic. Some people woke up to their houses burning or about to, others had time or didn't need to move at all. Fear and panic set in, many moved for the sake of moving out of fear of the unknown and massively unfamiliar circumstances, and it wasn't what they did to assess their own particular situation, it was that they fell prey to mass-hysteria. I think this is also what drives lost people to keep moving when they're lost, only to get more lost in the process, instead of sitting tight if they're otherwise safe where they are.
That brings me to the second point of my experience, a more personal one:
On the morning of Oct 8th, I received a frantic call at about 4:30 am from my girlfriend who lives in Santa Rosa, over 25 miles south of where I do. I had no idea what was going on in the big scope of things. She was literally freaking out...dead, paralytic panic. She was right at the eastern edge of the Tubbs fire, and smoke was thick. Bad and frightening in and of itself, but no imminent danger. Her power was still on, she obviously had phone service, no flames. By this time, web-based emergency alerts of just about every type were posting and being updated every two minutes. I logged on and pulled up her neighborhood on the map. The roads between our houses were all closed, including Hwy 101, and even if I wanted to get there to help her, it would've taken me over two hours to get there by circumventing those closures. It wasn't an option if she needed to move and move fast. I asked her to do several things: 1) go out her front door and see if she saw flames, 2) pull her car out of the garage, 3) get some things together. She was unable to do any of them...things she had to do, because her mind wouldn't let her. She had effectively shut down. I continued monitoring the situation from over 25 miles away, and I had a better grasp of what she was facing than she did being there. Seeing what I did, I tried to assure her that she was fine for the time being and had plenty of time to prepare and evacuate if it came to that, but advised her that she was better off just sitting tight. I wasn't there, but I was on it for her benefit. I was her only rational resource, and I was doing nothing more than trying to help her. In return, she turned on me hard and began screaming at me and told me "you don't know what the #$%@ you're talking about". I told her that she was there but, sadly, she knew even less than I did." She made me the enemy. Boom! Brain down, primary resource other than herself nullified. At that point, beyond finding the ability to redirect her fears into viable actions, now coupled with her need to vilify and scapegoat me as part of that entirely misguided manifestation of her paralytic fear, her two biggest, immediate concerns were: what clothes she should wear, and the fact that she only had one cat carrier and two cats, and neither of them wanted to be put in the carrier. I told her that she just needed to grab a few days worth of clothing (any clothing) and medications, her important papers, and if needed, punch the cats in the head and stuff them in the damned box. She again got mad and told me I was mean for telling her to punch the cats, to which I replied, "Then decide which one is going to die, or die yourself trying to wrangle them." Really, if you can't even do the most basic things to save your life, even to just take a deep breath and evaluate your situation for your own sake, I don't know what else to say to help you. You'll die, I'll be sad, but I'll also live to be sad, and you've left none of us any other options. Panic and freak out enough, and you become your own worst enemy. Think, and your chances of survival go up exponentially right there. Make your situation worse by not calming yourself, thinking through and processing the steps needed and possible consequences of your actions, well, you take your best bet (your rational brain), and it works against you every time. The greatest asset you have becomes your greatest liability because you've lost or failed to control it for your own benefit....your brain's primary function for all thoughts, actions, and biological functions...survival. And people all hate to hear the phrase "get over it", it sounds dismissive, and it's not what they might like, but what choice do you have left? Not to? That's actually all you can do. It's all you have left if you want something better to come out of it, and it's not a gentle, PC, feel-good, sympathetic proposition...have your moment, then make your best move or die, but jeez, at least try.
One other thing is relevant coming out of the fires: I live in the country out 2 miles of dirt road that runs through some rugged terrain. We have neighbors, and talk has turned to emergency evacuation planning. We're 75 years overdue for a major burn according to Cal Fire. Everyone has set up defensible spaces around their houses, and then some. But for some reason, everyone is fixated on getting in their cars while the flames are raging, and driving through unpredictable conditions in that rugged terrain. I don't get it. By all means, let's stack those variables up and hope they all work out in our favor. Of course no one wants to burn, but their perceived solution is much more likely to cause their death than hunkering down with a known set of conditions in an area set up to prevent what they're afraid of to begin with. In my case, and as I've advised them all, man the hose and defend your space the best you can, and if it overtakes you, jump in the pool and ride it out in a big body of water. I find that far preferable to being pinned in by burning trees across the road while the flames race uphill towards me, and dying in the car. And when you think about it in terms of how most wildland firefighters die, this is exactly how it goes...they got into it out of necessity (in their case, it's their job, not a foolish choice), they get surrounded, they have nowhere to go....
Finally, and this is probably the most glaring example of poor thinking I remember, there was a case years ago up west of Grants Pass, Oregon wherein a man died by wandering off for help, while his wife and children who stayed at the car lived. He had watched some TV show that said that you could usually follow river drainages to eventual civilization and help, so he takes off down the hill and freezes to death. Had he thought clearly and taken stock of his resources at hand, he would have realized that his greatest asset and chance for rescue was the road that he had just driven in on. I mean, who does that? How does that not register? Even animals will walk the roads and trails instead of bushwhacking it.