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Disaster Movies: Lessons Learned

day after tomorrow posterBy Regina Quadir

With the Oscars just 3 days away, movies have been on our mind lately here at CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. Especially disaster movies. They come in all kinds of flavors: deadly viruses, tornadoes, earthquakes, and, yes, even snakes on a plane.

Their special effects can be realistic enough to make us feel like we are right there in the heart of the storm. But frequently, the heroes and heroines of these movies respond to disasters in ways that bear no resemblance to what people in the real world should do.

We can nevertheless use disaster films to consider how the characters could have been more prepared or how they should have reacted if the situation they faced was real. Check out some of our favorite disaster movies and the lessons we can learn from them.

1. Twister (1996). Disaster: tornadoes.

Stormchasers played by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton inadvertently drive head-on into several F3 – F6 tornadoes throughout the course of the movie, sometimes while trying to outrun them. Although they find love in the end, they lose several pickup trucks in the process.

Independence Day Movie PosterDo not try to outrun a tornado in your car! If you see a tornado, stop your vehicle and get out. Do not get under your vehicle. Lie down flat in a gully, ditch, or low spot on the ground. Protect your head with an object or with your arms. Learn more about what to do before and during a tornado here.

2. The Day After Tomorrow (2004). Disaster: blizzard.

Sam Hall (Jake Gyllenhaal), the son of a climatologist, and his friend, Laura (Emmy Rossum), are trapped with a group of people in a New York City library during a major blizzard whose sub-zero temperatures freeze everything in its path. Despite Sam’s warnings to stay indoors, several restless people venture out into the cold only to meet their demise.

contagion movie posterWhen there is severe winter weather, the best thing to do is remain safely indoors. You should stock up on emergency supplies beforehand and listen to weather forecasts to stay informed. Make any trips outside as brief as possible, and dress warmly and stay dry. Prepare your car by getting maintenance service on your vehicle as recommended, keeping the gas tank near full, and keeping an emergency kit for the car. Learn more about winter weather preparedness here.

7. Independence Day (1996). Disaster: alien invasion.

After downing an alien fighter plane that has separated from the mother ship, Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) foolishly approaches the downed plane, unarmed, only to find that the alien pilot is still alive. Smith’s character punches the alien in the face, quipping “welcome to Earth.”

In case of an alien invasion, do not attempt to save humankind all by yourself. If an alien asks you to take it to your leader, buy yourself some time by showing it a Lady Gaga music video and dial 9-1-1 while it watches. In the event an international strike force by our world’s greatest celebrity action heroes cannot prevail against the alien fleet, then…well…might as well just sit back and relax with another good disaster movie as you wait for our new alien overlords to tell us what to do.

What other lessons have you learned from disaster movies? What is your favorite apocalyptic movie? Let us know in the comments.

by Blog Administratorcontagion, disaster movies, Independence Day, lessons learned, movies, preparedness, Twister
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