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Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

"Worst-Case Scenario" handbook: Some practical and not-so-practical advice

by Ricco Villanueva Siasoco

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The very explicit warning at the beginning of The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook says:


It should probably continue:


Like the hit TV show Survivor and the movie The Perfect Storm, the Worst Case Scenario Handbook allows us to imagine ourselves beating the odds and coping with some of the very worst circumstances imaginable.

What’s the reason for the sudden interest in survival and disaster? Worst-Case Scenario authors Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht hint at one answer. “You just never know.”

Part Jokebook, Part Handbook

Part tongue-in-cheek guide and part practical advice, Worst-Case divides its How-To categories into five sections:

  • "Great Escapes and Entrances," in which you can learn how to hot-wire a car;
  • "The Best Defense," in which you can learn how to fend off a shark;
  • "Leaps of Faith," in the very likely situation you find yourself needing to jump from a motorcycle to a moving vehicle;
  • the simply-put "Emergencies," where one can understand how to deliver a baby in a taxi cab;
  • and "Adventure Survival," in which you locate the best places to escape from being hit by lightning (covered in detail, of course, by the trusty editors at Infoplease).

Simple, wood-cut illustrations and an austere red and black type give this little book an authentic handbook feel. The writing is simple and straightforward; the authors have obviously done their homework and incorporated the advice they received from experts. Survival tips are broken into numbered points for the reader. The reader gets the feeling that if he or she ever really had to land a plane, this simple handbook would provide easy guidance all the way to the landing strip.

Emergency Tracheotomy?

Piven and Borgenicht make clear that the handbook is not only entertaining, but useful. Of course, most of us can reasonably expect we won't be performing emergency tracheotomies anytime soon. (Though in the off-chance that you are, first locate the cricoid cartilage in the victim's neck, make an incision with a sharp razor, and then use your finger to open the slit and insert a straw in the slit for the person to breathe.)

Unlike the tracheotomy tutorial, some of the pieces here are surprisingly practical for everyday life, as in the guide to treating frostbite. (As with most of the advice, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.)

Armchair Adventures

So what should you actually do with the Worst-Case Scenario Handbook? Piven and Borgenicht have prepared the answer: "Get a copy and keep it in your glove compartment. Take it with you when you travel. Give a copy to your friends and loved ones." Gift-giving may be the best advice for putting the Worst-Case Scenario Handbook to use.

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