You see it in the movies. People jump from great heights and land without injury. Superheroes do it all the time, but what if you don’t have superpowers?
Falls are the leading cause of accidental death worldwide. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the main cause of death for construction workers.
But plummeting down the side of a building doesn’t always have to be a death sentence. It will be hard to focus as you free fall towards the ground, but if you follow these steps, you just might live to tell the tale.
What’s the safest way to fall? How could acting like a pinball help save your life? And what are the odds you’ll survive?
The average lethal distance for falls is around four stories or 15 m (48 ft). If you fall from the seventh story, you have a 90% chance of surviving. And almost no one survives falls from 10 stories or higher. But there are some things you can do to increase your chance of surviving.
Step 1. Bounce around
Pretend you’re a human pinball, and try to hit against things. This sounds counterintuitive, but hear us out. As you hit against things, it will slow your fall and decrease your momentum. You don’t want to hit the ground at terminal velocity. Landing at that speed will kill you. And stay loose, don’t stiffen up. You could land awkwardly, and being stiff could cause a bone to pop out. Bending your knees could help.
Step 2. Hang on
Look for something to grab onto as you fall. That will either slow your fall or allow you to hang on for dear life until help arrives.
Step 3. Aim
Choose where you want to land, and aim toward it. Something soft, like that small patch of grass, You could even land on a car, as it could help absorb part of the impact.
Step 4. Feet first
Try to land with your feet first and then roll to the side. Your feeT will absorb most of the impact, helping to protect your internal organs. Landing on your back or stomach can cause severe head and spine injuries, as well as fatal heart damage.
Step 5. Stay put
Now you have landed, stay on the ground. Don’t try to jump up and dust yourself off. Even if you feel fine, it’s probably due to the adrenaline rush from the fall. Any movement could make your injuries worse. So, use your voice to call for help, and stay on the ground until help arrives.
Falling is scary. But if you stay calm and follow these steps, then you have a better chance of surviving. In 2014, a 1-year old boy was playing on an 11th-floor balcony and fell off. He fractured his ribs, backbone, arms, and skull. Miraculously, he had no severe head injuries. Against all odds, this little guy survived.
- “Why do so many US workers fall to their deaths?”. Michael, Sainato. 2020. The Guardian.
- “The window cleaner who fell from a skyscraper and lived”. Harry, Low. 2017. BBC News.
- “Six Flags accident: Can you survive a 25-foot fall?” Doyle, Rice. 2021. usatoday.com.
- “1-year-old survives fall from 11-story building”. youtube.com