If Your Elevator Starts Plummeting To The Ground, This Simple Trick Could Save Your Life

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Although elevator rides are considered to be safe – for the most part – tragic accidents do happen on occasion. In November 2018, for instance, the elevator cables in Chicago’s John Hancock Center snapped and sent the carriage plunging down a staggering 84 floors – with six terrified people inside. Yet if you ever find yourself in a similarly unthinkable position, there are some methods you could implement that just might save your life.

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Elevators, of course, aren’t known for their spaciousness, and there are lots of people out there who don’t like using them at all. This could be down to a number of reasons, including certain pre-existing fears. For example, if someone suffers with claustrophobia, an elevator is probably the last place they’d want to be.

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And it would likely become a claustrophobia-sufferer’s worst nightmare if that elevator were packed tight with a group of people. Yet this is not the only phobia that can come into play – as some agoraphobic individuals would attest. After all, if you’re afraid of being stuck in a small space, elevators are really not ideal.

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But one of the biggest fears that people experience – outside of the previous two examples – is the thought of the elevator going into a free-fall. And because this kind of accident isn’t unheard of, as we’ve already learned, it’s perhaps best to always be prepared. With that in mind, then, we’ve collected a few tips as to what you should do if you ever encounter this terrifying problem.

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Yet, across the world, there are countless thrill-seekers who actually get a buzz out of, say, plunging into a nose-dive. Certain rides at theme parks can even replicate those adrenaline rushes, whether it’s via a log flume or a large roller-coaster. And it could be argued that “drop tower” rides are perfect for these adventurous individuals.

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As the name suggests, these attractions are essentially free-fall rides whereby the riders take their seats on types of elevators. The carriages then rise to the top of tall towers before dropping riders back down to the ground at high speeds. And one of the most beloved examples of this can be found at Walt Disney theme parks.

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The Tower of Terror attractions take the drop tower concept in an interesting direction, too. For you see, on these particular rides, visitors are loaded into carriages that resemble actual elevators – which then plummet around 130 feet. So while they’re incredibly popular features at the parks, for some they touch upon very real fears.

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Yes, while the Tower of Terror is just an attraction, it still evokes the fears that many people have about riding elevators. And as we’ve previously mentioned, elevator accidents do happen – with several examples coming to light in the past few years alone. Yet one particular incident can be traced all the way back to the early 1900s.

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The accident in fact occurred in May 1903, when a number of individuals jumped on board an elevator in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The group were said to be on their way to a party inside one of the city’s buildings, with the event being held across two floors. Hundreds of people were believed to be there, too – yet no one could’ve predicted what happened next.

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So the aforementioned group arrived at the building and decided to take the elevator up to the sixth floor. In total, 17 people were on that car when it reached the desired destination. But something went terribly wrong a few moments later. Without warning, in fact, the elevator car plummeted back down to the ground.

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The passengers inside dropped over 64 feet in a matter of seconds – and the elevator smashed down into the pit below. Yet that didn’t signal the end of the accident. The cable that had snapped then fell down the shaft as well, landing on top of the wreckage. Before long, though, an attempt was made to recover the people trapped in the downed elevator.

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Miraculously, too, 13 passengers managed to survive the free-fall – including a toddler. In a tragic turn of events, though, the other four people weren’t as lucky. Due to the severity of the accident, their bodies were in such a bad state that identifying them proved extremely difficult.

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As for what caused the accident, an explanation of sorts surfaced soon afterwards. The elevators in that building had a stated capacity of 12 people, you see, so the tragedy was attributed to passenger overload. But whatever the reason for the accident, it was a horrible situation for everyone involved. It wouldn’t be the last high-profile incident to occur in the United States, though.

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In December 1946, around 40 years on from the incident in Pittsburgh, a group of 12 women boarded an elevator. They were all employees at a textile business called the American Woolen Company, located in Maine. So the ladies had entered the elevator as per normal on floor three, joining its operator inside.

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The operator’s name was Blanche Foss, and she noticed a troubling sound a few moments after the women got in. And as it turned out, the elevator’s cable and some other equipment had broken above the carriage – which then plummeted over 30 feet. Fortunately, Foss managed to escape the car before it dropped… but the group of women weren’t as quick.

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After plunging in a free-falling elevator to the lower reaches of the building, the women then had to contend with the debris, just like the party-goers from Pittsburgh. In this instance, too, the extremely heavy cable smashed through the elevator’s wooden ceiling, killing two members of the group. The remaining ladies escaped with their lives – although they were all badly hurt.

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As we’re about to discover, however, not every accident of this type ends in tragedy. The year before the American Woolen Company incident, in fact, a woman named Betty Lou Oliver arrived for work at the Empire State Building. And while her job there was “lift supervisor,” nothing could have prepared her for what happened in July 1945.

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On that fateful day, you see, a military aircraft was traveling to Queens, New York, from Massachusetts. As the plane reached the Big Apple, though, the pilot’s view was obscured by fog – leading him to lose his bearings. And due to that confusion, the craft accidentally crashed into the Empire State Building, near the 80th floor.

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At the time of the accident, Oliver was working on the 75th floor of the iconic building. The impact of the crash inevitably knocked her off her feet and caused some serious injuries. In fact, the woman broke multiple bones and also had to contend with burns from the leaking aircraft fuel.

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So, given Oliver’s condition, those who treated her in the accident’s immediate aftermath looked to get her down to street level as quickly as possible. She was therefore loaded into one of the building’s elevators. Unbeknown to everyone involved, though, the elevator had been damaged in the crash as well. This then led to a heart-stopping moment.

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With Oliver inside the elevator, the overhead cables broke – causing her to plummet over 800 feet to the ground. The elevator then smashed into the building’s basement. Yet, somehow, the occupant survived the fall. And in a remarkable bit of fortune, Oliver landed on a massive pile of broken cables at the bottom of the shaft.

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Thanks to those cables, then, Oliver’s landing was supposedly “softened,” allowing her to escape with her life. The injured lady was eventually helped out of the mangled elevator by those on the ground floor, bringing the dramatic episode to a close. But some time after that, the elevator supervisor received a rather unique accolade.

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As a result of the accident, you see, Oliver earned the “longest survived elevator fall” achievement from Guinness World Records – and it still holds up today. And in addition to that, Oliver returned to the Empire State Building a few months after the incident. The record-holder was then joined by an elevator inspector on a journey to the top floor, leading the witness to compliment Oliver’s “guts.”

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Those examples are, of course, fairly extreme. But the fear of something like that happening seemingly plagues a lot of people when it comes to elevators. For those who want to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario, then, there are certain ways one can prepare how to act if an elevator goes into free-fall.

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First up: hotels. If you just happen to be visiting one of these buildings, you’ll no doubt be carrying plenty of luggage. The stairs therefore won’t be a particularly attractive option at that stage – so taking the elevator would be a lot easier. This is lucky, in this case, because those extra bags could be all you need to deal with a free-fall emergency.

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If the elevator cables snap and the car subsequently goes into a free-fall, you see, you can use the luggage as a makeshift cushion. Yes, it’s believed that standing – or lying – on the bags means that they’ll take the full force of the inevitable landing. And thanks to that, you could be protected in the process.

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The next free-fall tip has been doing the rounds for quite a while now. And it’s actually something that plenty of people think about when discussing this topic. So, the theory goes that if you manage to jump in the air at the correct moment, you can avoid the impact of an elevator plunge. Yet that particular method has been entirely debunked.

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In a special video covering this exact subject, the Bright Side YouTube channel explained why you should never try jumping. And that’s not all, as we’re about to find out. The narrator says, “There’s a widespread misconception that if you jump a moment before the elevator hits the bottom, you will somehow decrease the impact on your body.”

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“Firstly, how are you planning to understand when you should jump?” the narrator continues. “You can’t see through metal, can you? Secondly, if you somehow managed to jump, which is extremely difficult due to being in a free-fall, the speed decrease you can hope for is about two miles-per-hour. It’s definitely not enough to save your life.”

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Alongside this bombshell, the video then reveals another fascinating tidbit of information. The host says, “What’s worse is [that] you might hurt yourself badly if you hit the ceiling with your head. Jumping is not worth the risk at all. MythBusters tested this approach [and] believe us, it didn’t end well for the dummy inside the elevator!”

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An additional method also faced the same level of scrutiny when Bright Side took a closer look. Apparently, you see, some people had been advised to stand up straight if they ever found themselves plummeting down an elevator shaft in a free-falling carriage. Given the situation, though, that approach doesn’t appear to be wise – with the video explaining further.

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“Standing up straight and hoping for the best is also not the best idea,” the Bright Side narrator says. “Nothing good is coming. What is coming is a weight ten times larger than that of your own body dropping on your legs at the moment of impact. Neither you nor anyone else can survive that.”

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But while the previous two tips were debunked, one more method emerged that will arguably give you the best chance of survival. Yes, it’s believed that if you lie down flat on your back inside the falling elevator, your body can withstand the crash. To help explain the reasons why that could work, let’s turn to a researcher who came forward in 2012.

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Eliot Frank, who works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was posed a question on the subject via The New York Times newspaper. Frank therefore spoke about the method in quite a bit of detail. And although the idea of lying down in a falling elevator sounds daunting on paper, it seems that it could ultimately save your life.

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“[Lying down] will distribute the force of impact over the greatest area of your body,” Frank said. “So that no particular part of your body is subjected to the weight of any other part of your body. The impact of the elevator at the bottom of the shaft would subject you to extreme gravitational acceleration, or G-forces.”

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Frank then reiterated a point raised in the Bright Side video as he dived into the intricacies of it all. He continued, “The number of Gs you experience multiplies your normal weight. So if you experience ten Gs, you would experience ten times the weight of your body.”

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“You might think that bracing yourself or bending your legs would help,” Frank added. “But at high G-forces, your legs would simply not be able to support the weight of your body. Even the weight of your own head would be too much for your neck to support.”

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This method of lying down is also recommended in the Bright Side video for those who might find themselves in an elevator free-fall situation. But the host had some advice to share on that front, touching upon a suggestion that Frank didn’t mention. According to that clip, then, you still need to protect a certain part of your body if you’re lying down.

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The narrator says, “It’s probably hard to think clearly in such a situation. But you should also remember to cover your head with your hands. When the elevator lands, it will most likely be destroyed, so protecting your head from debris might save your life.” After this, a few more points get raised regarding the method.

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“The problem with lying flat is your brain,” the host concludes. “A sudden speed drop from 60 miles-per-hour to zero can and will cause a severe brain concussion. Another issue is that when falling, you are weightless. So you’ll have to hold yourself in order not to start flying. [But] experts agree that it’s the only realistic way to save your life.”

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But of course, a falling elevator isn’t the only everyday danger that we need to be afraid of. For example, imagine this scene: you’re home alone and tuned into your favorite comedy show on TV, when suddenly you’re caught by a belly laugh. A chunk of pepperoni from the pizza you’re eating gets caught in your throat, and it blocks your airway. You can’t breathe, and there’s no one around to help. So what can be done? Well, there’s a simple trick you can perform, and it could just save your life.

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Sadly, dying by choking is a surprisingly common occurrence in the United States. In 2017 it was actually the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death, according to the National Safety Council. And alarmingly, it can come about from something as trivial as swallowing a piece of pizza the wrong way.

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What’s more, of the more than 5,000 people who died from choking two years earlier in 2015, over half were over the age of 74. Part of the risk comes from living alone, you see, potentially without anyone to help at the crucial moment. And it’s not just pizzas you need to worry about: other factors, such as dentures and difficulty swallowing, can also lead to such an occurrence.

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In the U.K., meanwhile, a child dies every month from choking, and hundreds more need hospital treatment for it, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. So, with the clear danger that such a threat poses to us, what can be done?

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Thankfully, first aid professionals have developed special techniques to help if choking occurs and there’s nobody around to help. And so, if you ever find yourself in a medical emergency with no one there to assist you, take on board this simple advice. It could save your life one day, after all.

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Before we discover this neat trick, we should first examine exactly how choking works. As most of us know, it is the result of air being prevented from entering the lungs. Whether by the swelling of tissue in the throat, strangulation or from being blocked by a foreign object, if air can’t flow freely into these organs, they will be deprived of oxygen.

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When someone starts to choke, they may have trouble speaking or struggle to shout for help. Breathing will be strained and may be accompanied with wheezing or gasping, too. Plus, sufferers may experience severe retching, coughing or gurgling.

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If a choking victim is unable to verbally communicate, visual clues become of paramount importance for anyone trying to help. The person may start grabbing their mouth or throat, for instance, or try to make themselves throw up by sticking their fingers down their throat. Then, if they’ve been starved of oxygen for too long, they may turn blue or lose consciousness.

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Yes, when the airways become partially or fully blocked, the lungs won’t receive enough oxygen, which causes oxygen deprivation. The good news is that the blood stream and lungs are able to retain enough oxygen to survive for a few minutes when a person stops breathing. However, a lack of it can also lead to other problems.

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You see, if a person’s oxygen supply is cut off for three minutes or more, the brain can become irreparably damaged. And if the supply is not restored within six to eight minutes, the victim will likely die. So, when your airways become blocked, it’s clearly important to act quickly and clear the obstruction as soon as possible.

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As we explored earlier, choking fatalities are particularly common among elderly individuals, but very young children are at risk, too. The most likely cause is food, with more malleable food stuffs posing an especially high threat as choking hazards.

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Yes, risky types of food are often those that can adapt their shape to that of the pharynx – the part of the throat that sits behind the mouth and nasal cavity. These include gelatinous candy, marshmallows and bananas, which can all block the flow of oxygen to the lungs when ingested in the wrong way.

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Other foods that are commonly known to cause choking are sausages and hot dogs, seeds, nuts and peanut butter, hard candy, whole grapes, apples and raw carrots. Also, young children are particularly susceptible to choking on improperly broken down food, often because their teeth haven’t fully developed yet.

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However, for children, choking hazards can be found beyond food. Young kids in particular are at risk of swallowing other everyday objects, because they tend to explore their surroundings by placing things in their mouths. Therefore, items such as toys or coins can be particularly dangerous for youngsters.

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Among the children’s toys that pose a threat of choking are small balls and marbles. That’s because these little objects can entirely obstruct an infant’s air passage. However, the most common cause of choking death among children is reportedly the ingestion of latex balloons. So what makes these hazards so risky for minors?

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Well, a child’s air passage is narrower than an adult’s, as it has not yet fully formed. And so smaller items have the ability to block a minor’s airway – much more easily than that of an adult. What’s more, a young kid may struggle to muster up a cough strong enough to dislodge any obstruction in their throat, so they can be deprived of oxygen for longer.

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For adults, meanwhile, food is the leading cause of choking deaths. However, other factors may increase the risk of an individual dying in this manner, such as alcohol consumption, medications that are known to cause drowsiness or even a combination of the two.

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What’s more, certain medical conditions may also increase the likelihood of choking. If the brain has been affected by Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or a stroke, for example, functions such as chewing, swallowing and coughing can become impaired. And if an adult lives alone, help may be unavailable in an emergency.

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However, even elderly individuals living in the safety of a care home are at risk. In England and Wales, 68 residents die every year from choking-related medical issues, according to the charity Stay Safe. But regardless of who is most likely to be affected, the statistics on choking are alarmingly high.

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In fact, online data portal Statista reported that the chance of experiencing a fatal food-related choking incident in the U.S. is roughly one in 2,696. To put that into perspective, you have a a higher chance of choking to death from food than of being accidentally shot or dying in a plane crash. So, with this in mind, it may be useful to know how to help someone facing such a danger.

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There are several techniques that can be administered to someone who is choking, and the good news is that no specialist training is required to perform them. These protocols include methods that are endorsed by the American Red Cross and American Heart Association, with each technique involving a number of stages, each of which increasingly apply more pressure.

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The first step, the American Red Cross says, is to encourage the individual to cough if they are conscious. And while the victim is doing this, they should breathe through their nose to ensure air gets to the lungs. If coughing isn’t possible or not working, though, stage two is to slap the back of the sufferer forcefully, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Apparently, the choker should lean forward, while the other person administers blows to their back. Using the heel of the hand, the slaps should be forceful and land between the victim’s shoulder blades. Care is required, mind you, because if the individual is struck in the wrong place, there’s a risk that the object or food could become further lodged.

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If coughing or back blows don’t work, however, we move onto phase three. At this stage, the Heimlich Maneuver – or abdominal thrusts – should be performed. To do this, you must stand behind the victim and reach around to place a clenched fist on their abdomen. Then, apply pressure in an inward and upward motion, which should create enough force to dislodge any obstruction in the airway.

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Of course, these methods presume that there is somebody around to help the victim. But what if you find yourself home alone, and the unfortunate happens? What do you do if there’s no one around to administer these techniques on you? Well, fortunately, a method has been developed to assist you in a choking situation if you’re by yourself.

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Jeff Rehman is a firefighter and paramedic from the Denver, Colorado area. He has been a CPR and basic life support instructor since 1990. And in June 2012 he uploaded a video to YouTube demonstrating a technique to dislodge obstructions in the airways in the event of choking when no one is around to help. Read carefully, because this may just save your life.

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In the video, Rehman explains, “I’ve noted over those years that there is no real effective means for somebody to rescue themselves should they be choking, and nobody is there to help them. So, we came up with something that actually works pretty well.” Interestingly, the origins of this technique are rooted outside of medicine.

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Rehman continues, “The maneuver you’re about to see came from the years I was a boxer back in the ’80s. It was something my coach taught me in order to toughen up my abdominal muscles.” And remarkably, the paramedic subsequently realized that the method could also be applied to his life-saving work.

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In the YouTube clip, which has been viewed more than a staggering 9 million times, Rehman goes on to demonstrate the life-saving maneuver. He says of the technique that he learned as a boxer, “I figured that there was a better use for it, so I applied it to my years as a paramedic.”

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So, Rehman recommends that in the event of choking alone, an individual should get onto their knees and put the upper part of their body into a push-up position. But the idea is not to lower yourself to the ground. In fact, what happens next is a movement that generates enough force as to recreate the impact of an abdominal thrust.

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With the individual on their knees, then, and the upper part of their body in the push-up position, they should fling their arms over their head. This may sound counter-intuitive; after all, without your arms to stop your fall, you’ll inevitably careen towards the floor. But as Rehman demonstrates, that’s exactly what needs to happen.

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It’s worth noting, of course, that Rehman’s technique is a last resort; the choking victim either cannot breathe or is rapidly losing the ability to do so. Therefore, although deliberately crashing to the ground isn’t something that typically feels natural, in such an extreme situation, this maneuver could potentially make all the difference.

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Rehman explains, “You want your arms to come up completely from underneath you, [so that you’re] landing on your chest and belly.” The firefighter demonstrates the move, and as he hits the ground there is an audible expulsion of air from his body. And though the technique looks odd, this is the exact effect that you want to achieve.

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Rehman continues in the video, “Now, if you heard that, you could hear just how much air was moving northward.” You see, the paramedic is referring to the sudden gush of air that was audibly expelled from his lungs as he hit the floor. He adds, “That should be enough to dislodge just about anything [from] someone whose airway is blocked.”

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However, it’s crucial to note that Rehman’s maneuver isn’t recommended for someone who is pregnant. In that circumstance, the American Heart Association suggests using a “chest thrust” instead. Apparently, this is similar to the abdominal thrust, but rather the hands should be placed at the base of the breastbone.

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Another handy thing to note is that abdominal thrusts can self-administered, too. To do this, make a fist with your hand, and place it thumb-side down between your ribs and belly button. Then, with your other hand placed on top, press your fist as hard as possible into the affected area – and this should force any air in your lungs out through the windpipe, clearing the obstruction.

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If you’re at home alone and start choking, there’s of course one other crucial thing you should do: call the emergency services. Ideally, this should happen from a landline. In the United States, the emergency services will automatically send help even if you can’t speak, according to Men’s Health. Plus, in some places, technology exists to trace the location of mobile phone calls, too.

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Dr. Richard Bradley, who sits on the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, told Men’s Health in 2017 that victims should visit A&E even when the obstruction is cleared. That’s because it’s possible that food might have been inhaled into the lungs, which could cause problems. Furthermore, any self-administered abdominal thrusts may have resulted in internal damage.

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However, this all being said, the very best solution to choking is prevention. Remain aware of what you are eating, then, and take care to chew your food thoroughly in manageable bites. Moreover, it’s wise to limit the consumption of alcohol, as this can increase the risk of choking, as we already know.

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Bradley explained, “Drinking changes your perception of when food is adequately chewed, so you tend to swallow sooner. Also, the muscles in your throat aren’t as coordinated as when you’re sober.” But, he concluded, “You could choke on a lozenge. The best thing is to stay aware as you’re eating and know what you would do in an emergency situation.”

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