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By Pete Moore On November 6th, 2019

Hundreds of plane passengers followed official advice on 9/11 and did what hijackers told them to do. The mistake cost them their lives. Many others followed official advice and sat at their desks in the Twin Towers. That mistake cost them their lives. And at Grenfell, as we know, some people followed official advice all the way to their graves as they stayed put as the flames rose. The lesson isn’t necessarily to disregard the advice of state agencies, but to react and take responsibility for your own safety. This is the key lesson from this intriguing book which I read a little while ago –

When disaster happens, say a fire, a plane accident or a bunch of muslims hijack your wings, survival is greatly enhanced by being proactive and moving. The human mind often works against this. When something terrifying or out of the ordinary happens, it has a tendency to shut down, to become paralysed. For example airline passengers have often been found alive, still strapped into their seats but unmoving after an accident. The brain simply shuts down to events. I have no doubt that this happened on 9/11, at Grenfell and at many other disasters. The way to overcome this is to resolve before something happens, that if something happens, you will move and take responsibility for yourself. Those who manage to do so stand a much greater chance of survival.

It’s a very good book and cheap as chips now.

17 Responses to “DON’T BE A SHEEPS”

  1. Some did freeze with fear on 9/11, including to some that I knew sad to say, but there will definitely be times when the fire team tells you to stay where you are, and times when that is the best advice.

    The example that I gave yesterday holds. If there is a fire below you in a tall building, heading for the exit or elevator could mean that you walk into the smoky stairwell or elevator well, when you could have stayed safe upstairs when that same fire was being put out.

    There is no one size fit all advice. Sometimes it is very wise to stay put.

  2. Ignore advice from emergency services. That firemen running towards the fire really wants you burned alive.

    Phantom is correct, there is no one size fits all. Actions are reflective of circumstances and no two circumstances are the same.

  3. Anecdotes aren’t data.

    I’ve no doubt that people do better on average listening to emergency service advice than making it up for themselves. Firefighters etc have overview of the situation and experience of many similar situations, and ample time to coolly think about it in advance. While you have limited information and it’s probably your first experience, and you’re panicing (or as the post says, paralysed not knowing what to do).

    Counter examples don’t really refute that. I can find examples of people who have survived a fall from a plane without a parachute and people who have died while wearing one. You’ve still got better odds wearing one, other things being equal.

    The battle is not always to the strong, nor the race to the swift, but that’s the way to bet.

  4. I’d imagine that Pete thinks that one should never listen to any advice from fire, police or other highly trained emergency personnel at any time.

  5. The way to overcome this is to resolve before something happens, that if something happens, you will move and take responsibility for yourself. Those who manage to do so stand a much greater chance of survival.

    Yes, especially if you get a four minute warning of a nuclear attack. Or a meteorite strike five miles wide.

    More seriously, I always locate the fire escape when I check into a hotel. Especially in London. Grenfell didn’t have one, nor did it have sprinklers or effective fireproof doors. But what it did have was highly inflammable exterior cladding. In the year of the fire, Kensington and Chelsea Council (Tory) was delighted to announce a £100 council tax rebate, to its highest council tax payers. This would presumably have included the dozens of billionaires in the borough, including Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club. Way to go guys, Pete would approve.

  6. lol its the big mouth hardest guys that end up pooping their pants in these events.
    The smart guy is often a dippy looking kid , maybe even a commie

  7. I always locate the fire escape when I check into a hotel.

    Good practice.

    As is paying close attention when there is a fire drill, which is not what 90% of the people do.

  8. There are some theories that work only if everyone follows them, like Christianity, Anarchy etc.

    Others work only if nobody else follows them, and you are the exception that benefits.
    This is one of those. An armed nutter in a public place will have an easy time of it if everyone is petrified with fear, and will pay no heed to the sole Pete Moore running around and presenting a difficult moving target.
    But if everyone has been reading ATW and all start running round in different directions at the same time? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Very often in such cases more people are trampeled to death or smothered than are actually killed by whatever caused the panic.

    There was once a big fire in a disco in Dublin. It seemed that absolutely no fire laws were being observed: emergency exits were locked to prevent patrons opening them to let in their friends, the windows, even in the toilets, were barred. Practially the entire disco and furnishing were of compustible materials. There were low ceilings and right above the disco 50 drums of cooking oil were being illegally stored.
    An electrical fault caused the fire and there was a huge flashover when the oil ignited. Everyone started running around, some into the toilets, but the really big stampede was for the main entrance. Some of the smaller and weaker ones were trampled underfoot, while about 50 others got jammed in the narrow entrance and died there. All young people.

  9. There was a very bad fire in a Rhode Island nightclub where 100 were killed

    A band set off fireworks because it looked cool.

    Everyone headed for the exits at the same time, just like Pete said.


  10. Frank –

    The good news is there’s a lot of “why” is in the book. Science, engineering and data are all to the fore.

  11. Peter –

    Non-theft is preferable to partial rebates after the theft.

    Emma Dent-Coad would not agree. She’s the local Labour MP. She was also on the committee which oversaw the Grenfell refurbishment. She doesn’t like to talk about that.

  12. Pete

    It was the Tory council that decided to install the cheap flammable cladding and ignore resident’s warnings about the lack of sprinklers. But the most outrageous failure was to ignore the inquest findings in a London towerblock fire in 2009. Obviously rebates to the immigrant billionaires in Kensington had to take precedence over fire safety costs in a council towerblock, which would only have benefitted immigrant poor people:

    “An inquest into the deaths at Lakanal House found that the rapid spread of the fire had trapped people in their homes. The exterior cladding panels had burned through in less than five minutes.[14] As in the case of the Grenfell Tower fire eight years later, residents were advised to remain in their homes in the event of a fire. The inquest concluded that substandard renovations had removed fire-stopping material between flats, and safety inspections carried out by Southwark council had not uncovered this problem.”


  13. Pete Moore. The man who thinks he knows everything and knows nothing.

  14. When starting a new company I always enquire about the fire drills. When is it, and where to we evacuate too. Sounds silly but whilst I will not say it has saved my life, in the times when the fire alarm has been called in the past, whether it be real or a drill, I have always headed for the door marked EXIT !! You will be amazed at the number of people that remain at their desks waiting for orders.

  15. I’ve been at fire drills at work in NYC many times in NYC and a couple of times in London.

    Very many employees in both places didn’t pay attention and were annoyed to leave their work stations.

    Some, after years of never paying attention, don’t know where the fire stairs are.

    That will get you killed when the fire comes.

    Also, look how many don’t pay attention to the pre flight safety instructions on a plane.
    Passengers who fly once a year don’t pay attention, but guys like Captain Sullenberger paid attention every single time.

  16. Our drills are mandatory. When hired we’re given survival kits (large fanny packs–I doubt they call them that in EU–filled with water, flashlight, reflective stuff, mylar blanket, first-aid stuff, etc.). We must take them with us to the drills. We sometimes have to walk down 4-5 flights of stairs to the next safe fire door. This co. is very serious about emergencies and terrorism.

  17. This is well worth a watch. I totally agree with Jonathan.