But If It Does Happen: "If someone's coming in through your window or fire escape, run out the front door—and vice versa. If you can't get out, lock yourself in the bedroom, barricading the door if necessary, and call 911 from your cell phone, which you should keep by the bed at night. If he reaches you anyway, remember counterattack rule number one: Get 'em in the eyes. As McCann notes, if someone can't see you, he can't hurt you. Aim pepper spray, air freshener, or hairspray right where it counts.
But If It Does Happen: The minute your car hits the water, open your door, unfasten your seat belt, and get out, says Harkey. As the car sinks and fills with water, the doors will become harder to open. (Don't even think about the power windows—they'll stop working seconds after impact.)
But If It Does Happen: Stay put. "Anytime you experience irregularities with an elevator, do not try to open the doors," says Dotty Stanlaske, executive director of the National Association of Elevator Safety Authorities. "The worst thing you can do is try to exit a moving elevator." If it's dropping, squat down in a corner, she says. That way you minimize the impact if you come to an abrupt stop.
But If It Does: The trick, says Gary Calkins of Texas Parks and Wildlife, who has worked around quicksand for almost two decades, is to "shuffle walk" to safety, wading through the muck (which he says will feel more like freshly poured concrete than a swimming pool) until you reach firm ground. The less moving around you do, the better.
But If It Does: At the moment someone tries to kidnap you, run and yell "Fire!" (which is more likely to attract attention than "Help!"). "A lot of people don't have an escape mentality," says McCann. "When you grab them, they stop thinking like a person who is free and start thinking like a prisoner." Look for an out—when your captor's attention is elsewhere. But if there's no chance of getting away, make him see you as a person, not a thing, by talking about how relieved your kids will be when you're freed, or about your ailing mother, who's depending on you—or whatever humanizing story you can convincingly muster that might induce empathy and get you released.
But If It Does: Take the usual precautions—tighten your seat belt and follow the instructions of the flight attendant, says Todd Curtis, PhD, founder of AirSafe.com. Asked if there's a section of the plane where your odds of survival are greater, Curtis responds: "Tell me the kind of plane you're in and the kind of accident you're going to have, and I'll tell you where to sit." But, Curtis adds, the middle seating area near the wing is the strongest and most structurally stable part of most aircraft. And at the very least, you'll feel less turbulence when you sit there.
This article—and over 100 more empowering pieces—appears in O's Big Book of Happiness.