They’re highly unlikely eventualities, but freak accidents do happen.
In the last 17 years, for example, nearly 300 people have gone overboard from cruises and ferries; hundreds of skiers fall prey to avalanche-related accidents annually and countless hikers encounter mishaps during their treks.
And while many of these calamities are out of our control, there are things you can do to up your chances of survival should you find yourself in the worst-case scenario.
Cruise ship fall
In the last 17 years, nearly 300 people have gone overboard from cruises and ferries – and your chances of survival depend on how you fall and how cold the water is
The Cruise Lines International Association estimate that around 20 people fall from liners annually – a small figure considering the 20 million people who set sail each year, but it does happen.
If you’re one of them, your chances of survival depend largely on how far you fall and the conditions of the water.
If the temperature is low enough, you’ll very quickly go into shock, often inhaling water as you gasp and thrashing around to fight the cold – all this making you susceptible to drowning.
Your best bet is stay still and hope someone spotted you fall, and has time to retrieve you before you succumb to hypothermia.
The RNLI, an ocean safety organisation, states: ‘Everyone who falls unexpectedly into cold water wants to follow the same instinct, to swim hard and to fight the cold water. But when people fight it, chances are, they lose.
‘If you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, do as little as possible, and float.’
Faced with an impending avalanche, shed your ski poles and make your way sideways using a ‘swimming’ technique, or roll like a log if you’re knocked off your feet (stock image)
It’s every skier’s worst nightmare, when a shelf of snow breaks off and comes tumbling down the mountain.
Experts at The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) advise victims caught in such an eventuality to begin to skiing sideways, doing all they can to remain on the surface of the slide.
That includes shedding their poles and using a ‘swimming’ technique in the direction of the slide or rolling like a log if they are knocked off their feet.
If it’s possible to grab hold of a tree, do so.
Carrying a locator beacon will also help you be identified by search and rescue.
If you move too quickly, you’ll create air pockets, which will pull you deeper into the ground. Instead, lean backwards and spread out
Quicksand generally consists of sand or clay that’s become waterlogged, often found in river deltas. The ground may appear solid, but when you step on it the sand begins to liquefy.
Rule number one: don’t panic. As in many such situations, the key to success is to stay calm.
From here, remember to make slow movements.
If you move too quickly, you’ll create air pockets, which will pull you deeper into the ground. Because weight is the enemy here, carefully ditch any items such as backpacks.
Then, lean backwards and spread out. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the greater the surface area, the lighter you’ll become.
Once this is done, move sideways across the top of the sand until you reach firmer ground.
Instead of fighting against the rip (you’ll lose), lifeguards at the RNLI advise swimmers to tread water and conserve energy until the current weakens
According to the National Weather Service, rip currents can be found on most surf beaches, including the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico – and they’re very dangerous.
Strong currents are capable of pulling swimmers out to sea at speeds of between one and five miles per hour.
Instead of fighting against the rip (you’ll lose), lifeguards at the RNLI advise swimmers to tread water and conserve energy until the current weakens and they can make it back to shore.
Swimmers can also follow the current, which will travel out to sea and then around in a semi-circle, and reach the shore at a different point where the pull is not so strong.
Either of these options are better than flapping around, which will only exhaust you.
Your strategy in dealing with a dangerous encounter will depend entirely on the species of beast – a lion, for example, you should back away slowly from but never turn and run
While the vast majority of safari expeditions are safe, no drive is ever risk-free when it comes to wild animals.
Your strategy in dealing with a dangerous encounter will depend entirely on the species of beast.
Find yourself face-to-face with a lion, for example, and you’ll need to make direct eye contact and back away very slowly. Never turn your back, never run.
If you endure a stand-off with a leopard, the reverse is true. Here, you’ll need to avoid eye-contact at all costs and hope they lose interest.
Elephants may look slow and peaceful, but they can be highly aggressive and very capable of harm. The trick here is to stand your ground and pretend to be brave. You’re be hoping they’ll make one or two mock charges, then saunter off when unchallenged.
As for a buffalo, there’ll be no such warning. You’ll never outrun one, nor survive them in combat, so your only option is to get a head start and climb a tree.
Lost on a hike
Use the STOP acronym to plan an rescue: stop, think, observe, plan – and often it’s better to stay put than try to find your way back
It’s very easy to get lost in the wilderness, particularly for less experienced hikers.
According to the man behind the Hiking Dude blog, your number one tool is a positive mental attitude. Specifically, he advises people to use the acronym STOP to plan their rescue: stop, think, observe, plan.
‘As soon as you realise you may be lost, stop, stay calm, stay put. There is nothing you can do about whatever got you to this point – all you can do now is solve the problem of getting out of the situation. The further you walk, the longer it will take rescuers to find you,’ he writes.
Next, try to re-trace your steps. See if you can spot landmarks and refer back to your map. But do not take a step until you’re sure where you’re going. From here, consider your situation.
‘Estimate how long you have until dark. Check out the weather and determine if it looks like it will be getting better or worse,’ he says. ‘Check your water and decide how long it should last. Consider the other hikers in your party and how they are doing when you plan your next steps.’
Finally, plan. ‘If you are confident that you have determined the way to go and have time before dark to reach a known spot, such as the marked trail on your map, then go carefully and obviously mark your route with stacked rocks, sticks stuck in the ground, or strips of cloth from your bandanna.
‘If you are not very, very confident in the route, then it’s better to stay put.’
If you are bitten, bring your affected body part down lower than your heart to slow the flow of venom in your bloodstream (if it’s a limb) and get to the nearest hospital
If you come across a snake, back away slowly and change your course. If it looks like it’s following you, stamp on the ground to make vibrations in the ground, which should drive it away.
If you are bitten, bring your affected body part down lower than your heart to slow the flow of venom in your bloodstream (if it’s a limb) and get to the nearest hospital.
Try and remember, or better still photograph, the snake so doctors can faster identify which anti-venom you need.
In the event of a loss in cabin pressure, 20 seconds is all it can take to lose consciousness without the use of an oxygen mask – so get yours on fast before helping others
The odds of being killed on a flight are a mere one in 4.7 million, according to online air crash database Planecrashinfo.
If it does befall you, there are two hurdles to emerging alive: first, you’ll need to survive the initial impact, then overcome the risk of fire, smoke inhalation and drowning.
As we are always told in safety demonstrations, put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. In the event of a loss in cabin pressure, 20 seconds is all it can take to lose consciousness without one.
Abandoning your belongings for a swift exit will also boost your chances.
That, and choosing the cheap seats at the back, according to at least one simulation conducted using a Boeing 727.
Why? Because most impact is typically felt at the front, where premium is located. Thus, your chances of survival increase the further back you are seated.