June 19, 2006

Always out of step...

Many years ago, when I first lived on my own, I started doing dishes by hand. My mother was horrified when she came to visit, seeing the dish drainer on the counter, with the dishwashing machine used for storing those large kitchen items that don't seem to fit comfortably into cupboards.

Fast forward several years, and I again horrified my mother by buying an MPV, what SUVs were called way back when there was only a Blazer and a Bronco, and the only Hummers were Humvees. (Well, aside from the hummers offered by the service workers patrolling certain districts where nice girls don't go.). It wasn't so much that I bought "truck", but that I a) drove it all the time, and b) no longer drove my little two-seater sports car.

She would also be horrified that I now go barefoot and braless and totally schleppy all the time while at home (sorry, but when you have fibromyalgia, clothes hurt!), and am not terribly less schleppy when I leave the house (though I do wear, uhm, upper torso restraints).

So, needless to say, she would be horrified by the most exciting piece of clothing I've gotten in well over a decade: my new hard hat! With accessory headlights!!

"Didn't I teach you better?" she groaned when I did dishes by hand and when I started driving a truck. Though she has been gone 19 years now, I can still hear her, and see her roll her eyes and shake her head.

The funny thing is, she did teach me. Quite well. Though I no longer maintain the outward trappings of "a lady" as she strove to do daily, she could also get down to the nitty gritty. As can I. Hence my excitement over my new fashion statement.

What the well-dressed matron (and, uhm, iguana) is wearing this season is the CERT hard hat, with headlamps for SAR, safety vest, safety glasses (these slip on over my prescriptions specs), leather work gloves (in my size!), and a nifty lightweight 4-in-1 tool that will turn off gas, lift the concrete cover off the water main and turn that off, and generally help lift and poke through stuff.* Okay, so what I really want for Chanukkah is a pinch bar, but until then, a broom handle and my 4-in-1 will do

What? You haven't looked into getting CERT trained, or SAR trained, or starting a COPE team in your neighborhood? What are you waiting for?! In case you've forgotten, you'll find links to Emergency Preparedness articles and resources at my site.

Go ahead. Click that link. Make your mama proud that she did raise you right.

Not pictured above are my disposable barrier gloves and masks and a bunch of other cool stuff. Did I mention that my mother was also horrified that hardware and building supply stores are my stores?

June 03, 2006

Triage, and SAR, and Fires, Oh My!

Today I triaged several victims with burns and embedded debris, tended to a dead child, stabilized a glass shard piercing some guy's throat then treated him for shock, and helped move him and some of the other victims out of the earthquake-damaged building.

I then did some search and rescue, though the only living victim was a young boy whose leg had been severed (which beat the poor kid whose body was cut in half). I also helped extract another child from underneath a pile of debris my teammates lifted off of him enough so I could get him out.

As the piece de resistance, I got to put out a gasoline & diesel fire using a pressurized water extinguisher, impressing the hell out of the firemen who set the fire, because I did it much faster than my teammates. (Not, y'know, that I'm competitive or anything.)

Okay, okay, so there really wasn’t an earthquake today (well, at least, there wasn’t a 6.8 one on the Rogers Creek Fault at 0900 hrs, as there was in our practice scenario), and the victims, dead and alive, were a mixture of Red Cross dummies (uhm, the plastic kind) and workers, and a couple of shanghaied daughters of said workers. Humans and dummies alike got made up by the same moulange artist who ‘shot’ me a couple of weeks ago.

These three units, along with a fourth (disaster response overview) comprised the practicum for the first Sonoma County CERT training for citizens.

While we humans are very good at making believe that “it won’t happen here”, but bottom line is that “it” will happen here. If not to your house, your block, your neighborhood, then to one nearby. While everyone living around the Pacific Rim (which is called the Ring of Fire for a very good reason) knows they live in earthquake country, other disasters that happen are floods, mudslides, tsunamis, and major fires.

We here in California joke that we do indeed have four seasons—earthquake, flood, mudslide and fire—but we really do have all these things. Where I live, we’ve had them all within the last 6 months. Okay, so the quakes were relatively small ones, not causing major structural damage, highway overpass collapse, severe damage to the bridges that connect us to the San Francisco Bay area, and our little airport’s runways are still fully functional.

But that is just this time.

At some time in the not too distant future, things are going to get real ugly. Loma Prieta ugly. Northridge ugly. 1906 ugly. 1969 ugly. Ugly ugly ugly.

While California’s emergency response system is pretty damn good, from the cities up through the state level, the bottom line is that there will not be enough fire, police, hospitals, emergency medical personnel, clear roads and functional airports to help everyone who needs it. Ditto in other states that have their own “favorite” disasters of flooding, hurricane, tornadoes, fires, and slides.

Yes, most of the newer key structures—fire departments, hospitals, law enforcement offices, emergency medical services—are hardened, built to higher structural standards, so they will be more likely to sustain less severe structural damage than the buildings around them. But that doesn’t do John Q. Public or Susie Shrieker any good when the too few fire trucks and ambulances can’t get to their neighborhoods to extract and treat them, not for days and days.

If they’re lucky.

Anyone who truly believes that they only need three days of food and water and shelter before some agency comes and makes things all better is on some really good drugs. Wanna share?

Anyone who is starting to get that we are pretty much on our own, dependent on ourselves, the people we live with, and the people who live right around us—just as they will be dependent on us—is starting to get where I’m coming from.

You think that this type of training will be too much for you? Think again. I’m sick, and I made it through. Sure, it’s pretty much all I did for the month that the classes were held, and today’s final ‘exam’, the practicum, has pretty much crippled me for several days and is going to make a serious dent in my pain meds. But other than one ‘youngster’ in his early 20s, everyone else was in their 40s-60s. Some have day jobs, many are retired.

So, don’t just sit there and wring your hands or scratch your heads. Do something! Contact the department in your county that deals with emergency preparedness and response. Find out what training is available to citizens. Check your local Red Cross chapter, too. Contact your city’s general services administrator. If they aren’t providing this type of services and can’t tell you who is, get on the phone and fire off a call or email or fax to your city councilpeople and county supervisors. Then you can have fun like I did today.

I hope I never have to use in real life any of the information and skills I learned over the past month, but if—when—the time comes and I do, I know I’ll be able to help not only myself, but many others as well.

Nobody ever made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. - Edmund Burke