How to Survive a Disaster, With Crisis Reporter Judith Matloff

This week in The Upgrade, we tackle all kinds of situations – from hurricanes to earthquakes, from scary combat to crush – we cover it all with the help of crisis reporter Judith Matloff. Judith has 40 years of experience in war zones, uprisings and other dangerous situations. She now teaches crisis reporting at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and her latest book is How to Drag a Body and Other Safety Tips You Hope You Never Need .

Hear Judith’s advice on how to mentally and physically prepare for the worst, as well as her top tips for surviving natural disasters, snakebites, severed limbs, and more.

Listen to The Upgrade above, or find us in all the usual podcast locations including Apple Podcasts , Google Play , Spotify , iHeartRadio, and NPR One.

Highlights from this week’s series

From an interview with Judith Matloff

On the benefits of learning the basics of first aid:

I think most people are unprepared … I think it’s human nature to be optimistic, to deny and think, “Nothing will happen to me, or, you know, it seems so ridiculous.” [B] But the point is, things happen. I think what people should do, everyone should take first aid. And you know, for example, we constantly have active shooters. If you know how to stop the bleeding, you can save many lives, like passers-by during the explosion at the Boston Marathon or during that great massacre in Las Vegas a few years ago. If you know how to stop bleeding, and it’s very, very easy to learn how to do it in just a couple of hours, you can save lives even in a car accident on the street … I feel so strong that we all need to think about the worst-case scenario ahead of time. and then think about how you could mitigate or deal with it, or even prevent it. And when you have a plan and rehearse it, you will feel calmer when it actually happens. Without a doubt.

On changes to the emergency evacuation plan this year:

[T] This is what I urge every American citizen who could live anywhere, where there might be an ugly tornado, a freak, or an ugly earthquake – and there are a lot of weird things going on. [F] find out now what will be your escape route and where would you go? Because it may not be the same as it was in previous years. So even if you live in a place like New Orleans, where I think the people who live there pretty much know what teaching is, the teaching this year is very different [due to COVID].

For amazing advice on what to do with a severed body part:

Do not put it on ice because the ice kills the fabric. Wrap up. And it looks like the best thing is the Ziploc bags. I mean, you just never know, is it true that the finger will be cut off or something … So put your finger or even if it’s intestines, just wrap it in something and pour cool water, keep its wet and cool, but don’t let the water touch your finger or exposed body parts that have just been torn off. Don’t put it on ice.

For more of Judith’s valuable advice on what to do in various emergencies, we recommend listening to the entire episode!

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Episode transcript


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