Some thoughts on a pretty tragic week:
- The response in Boston was superb. There is little more than can be said.
- We weren't completely unprepared 12 years ago, at least not in L.A. Much of what was done in Boston is what I've been taught on a smaller scale in every emergency medicine and emergency response class I've ever taken, and there have been quite a few of those. What has changed is that the stuff that we always were trained to do in smaller teams in the field is now practiced all the way up the chain of responsibility. Those with responsibility for the higher level administrative and logistical management of such incidents have been forced to think ahead and consider what they would do: where to get blood, how many rooms to have set aside, how to manage staffing, etc. In the end, in large-scale events, the logistics and planning matter.
- I suspect that on the west coast we've always been a bit more prepared for mass events, though historically we haven't worried as much about the man-made type.
- Growing up in Israel in the '70s probably has also left me much more attuned to preparing for such things and planning ahead around the grim possibilities.
- My friend Bill Seligman noted the following on Facebook. It is so succinct and complete that I won't even try to paraphrase or edit it in any way:
"No matter where you work - no matter what you do: you need to be ready for the "expected" crisis of your home, workplace or other place that you spend regular time, and the unexpected crisis of the society in which we live. It means taking a few minutes to force ourselves out of our comfort zone to THINK, so that we can be ready to help, rather than panic, when needed.
"In Los Angeles, that doesn't only mean earthquake kits -- it also means being ready for terrorism, for fire, or for a deranged gunman to enter your office. It means you need to have a plan for what happens if an out-of-town family member is suddenly dying, or if your boss has a heart attack at her desk, or if your kid calls from soccer practice to say that the coach is just lying there..."
- I should point out that the ubiquitous earthquake or first aid kit is useless if you don't know what to do with it, and the moments after an emergency is not the time to start learning. Take a class and think ahead. (You may find that the expensive kit you thought you needed is mostly a waste of money and that what you really need can be assembled quite inexpensively.)
- A "Rule of Thumb" that I learned from an LAFD captain some time back. It really uses your thumb and is worth keeping in mind:
When confronted with an emergency or distaster, whether it's a fire, a gas plume, a wrecked truck, a collapsing building, a giant Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man, or anything else threatening, extend your arm and put up your thumb. If you can't obscure the entire thing with your thumb, then you're too close! If you're not a trained emergency worker who's there for a reason, get the hell away!
- Even if you use the Rule of Thumb, you may be too close for certain types of emergencies. Use your brain too.
- If you don't follow the "Rule of Thumb" and instead stick around to try to get some cool video this is the kind of thing that can happen:
- I often find Andy Borowitz to be far too partisan for my tastes, but he's dead on the money with his latest item. It's sad when the satire is more true than the "news."
- Coincidentally, I happen to be reading It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap As News, the first chapter of which happens to deal with media fearmongering. It is 100% appropriate to much of what we've seen in the news since Monday. It's amazing how much of what we did in my college newspaper days to fill space is what the major networks and newspapers do in "real life." As a kid who was barely old enough to drink, it was funny and arguably had little impact on much. When CNN, Fox, The New York Times and all the rest do it, it's either sad or scary or both.
- The solution is obvious.
- Also, turn off the internet. It's mostly just as useless and full of rumor, innuendo and speculation.
- In a major emergency, odds are good you'll be on your own for 2-3 days. So I'll finish up with plugs for attending a CERT course in your area, for brushing up on your first aid and disaster response skills, and for regularly giving blood. I've got a pint of B- due on Friday...