To Panic, Or Not To Panic, That Is The Question…


There are a lot of factors that will affect whether or not someone will panic in an emergency. Ultimately, one never knows until a real condition arises. To practice, to drill, to train, to learn solutions to potentially disastrous scenarios, the ability to adapt, to think on your feet, to think scenarios through ahead of time, etc.. all of the above should help.

A major problem often arises when someone has not ever even considered what they would do if ‘this’ were to happen or ‘that’ were to happen. Having said that though, it does apparently come more natural for some than others (the ability to ‘not panic’, to correctly assess and act).

Have a look at the following comments and examples from our readers:

Awhile I ago I had posted an article on the topic of panic during an emergency, and there were lots of great comments, some of which I have snipped and placed here for your interest and discussion… Managing panic is an important first-reaction to a sudden emergency – and worthy of further discussion.


Having training, and better yet, realistic drills in emergency situations has made all the difference several times in my life already.

If you haven’t already learned and practiced or at least thought about what to do in an emergency, you are not prepared at all when it actually comes.

Even a simple “fire drill” sprung on your family will reveal areas in need of attention, and this kind of realistic training costs you nothing…well, your wife might get mad if you ruin dinner with a fire extinguisher…


I have noticed that in emergency situations such as automobile accidents, people choking on food, etc.. I tend to see/experience the situation in slow motion and get an extremely calm feeling where my thinking is clear and logical. I don’t have conscious control of this it just happens so I guess you either naturally have it or not.

On the other hand I believe you can talk yourself down from panic if you experience it.


The experience of time alteration is very common during times of extreme stress, such as a car accident, combat, and other, sudden, life threatening, situations. This is an inherited trait, which many do not have. A person possessing this survival trait has the ability to speed up their ability to perceive sensory experience and process thought. When such a mind automatically goes into “high gear” the increased ability to fathom the surrounding action allows a better chance of survival. When the event causing the mind to speed up is remembered, the mind is no longer running at the speed with which it gathered and processed the experience. Thus, the event is recalled in extreme detail, as if everything had slowed down during the event. As if a camera records the action at high speed, but the film it produced is viewed at a normal speed…making the action seem to be happening in slow motion.

Although this experience is often automatic, and not subject to one’s volition, this is not always the case. One can attain the ability to alter the speed at which they perceive, and increase, as a result, the speed of their ability to react.

In my experience, this ability is associated with the stress of personal combat, where one must “flow” and not think. I assume this mental state requires a mind with “good wires,” which is associated with very fast reflexes.

The consciousness of those around us is not equal. The intelligence of everyone may vary. The ability to perceive reality varies. Cognitive function varies. The emotional status and mental health varies. Education and experience varies. Confidence varies.

In any group of people, which is stressed by life threatening events, they may be lucky to have someone with the genetic ability to lead during this time who will arise and take control. But, usually, such a leader only appears if it is in keeping with the service of their own values. And, they will save only those who can be saved.


Pumping gas at a station in a grocery store parking lot – a wood-chip filled parking island 15 feet from the pumps was smoldering pretty heavy. I watched various people try pouring water from little bottles on it, stomping on it, etc – people were yelling and generally milling about as the fire got larger. I finished pumping, grabbed an extinguisher from the gas pump, walked over and doused the flames. Put the extinguisher back and got in my truck as people were just staring open-mouthed as if I had just performed magic. They won’t last long in a SHTF scenario.


It may be argued that letting the panic filled person who is running off at the mouth continue his/her rant and they may then lead the group over the cliff, thus causing an important diversion in which you may take care of business. Herds can be useful. How many old westerns have you seen when they run a panicked herd thru the town as cover. Just sayin’, use all tools available.


After joining the military, and learning to take one day at a time and deal with each situation as it came, I developed the ability to remain calm in chaotic or dangerous situations. I served a career in the military and now law enforcement and have had to deal with numerous terrible situations, too many to list, and have been able to remain calm, level headed, able to respond appropriately (although critiquing and learning for the next emergency).

Based on my life experiences I am of the belief that a person can be trained/taught to respond appropriately in emergencies. It helps to have good parents and mentors who realize we don’t go through life without difficulties/accidents/stressful situations and do all they can to prepare the person for them. Too many of our current generation are taught by our culture to depend on others when trouble comes and this pre-programs them to panic when they have to rely on themselves.


During extreme danger , the brain filters out information that is not important for coping with the danger, letting in only information necessary for making survival decisions. This filtration process is person dependent, with some people there is little or no filtration and as a result there is sensory overload ( the person freezes up- no decision – no action or erratic behavior)

Erratic behavior happens when there is a rush of adrenaline . Time seems to stand still because the brain is busy filtering every thing out that is not really important at that instant. Training ( such as combat training) helps manage this.


Does anyone have any examples or experiences to add to this discussion?
Have you witnessed others who were in ‘a panic’?


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