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As I wrote last week, after seeing the devastation of Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle last fall, whose victims are still reeling from losing everything, I decided I wanted to do more with my life than just sit behind a computer screen. And, since I have so many good folks helping run things at WritersWeekly and BookLocker now, I do have some spare time to contribute to a worthy cause. So, I signed up for CERT. And, it’s something you might want to do, too! 🙂
This week, as promised, I’m sharing some of the “secrets” I learned from individuals who do NOT work directly for FEMA, but who offer training through a local organization that provides community disaster relief. You might be shocked by some of this. The facts are a bit random. I’ve organized them as well as I can using my notes. I still can’t believe we learned this much in just one weekend. Of course, some people reading this will disagree with some of the information. That’s to be expected. I’m always up for a good debate!
IF YOU STOP BREATHING OR LOSE A LIMB IN A DISASTER, YOU WILL PROBABLY BE LEFT TO DIE
As I told you last week, if you stop breathing during a disaster with numerous victims, you probably will not receive CPR. Rescuers are trained to save the greatest number of people in the least amount of time. That means the ones with the worst injuries, which might take too long to treat, are not treated.
Likewise, if you suffer an amputation in, for example, an explosion, and if there are many wounded, you will probably be left to die in the field. And, you will die very quickly because you’ll bleed out.
CHILDREN MUST BE SEPARATED FROM FATALLY WOUNDED PARENTS
Volunteers are to always immediately separate children from a dead or dying parent. Having a child watch a parent die is, of course, deeply traumatic.
THIEVES WILL STEAL FROM DEAD PEOPLE AND FROM EMERGENCY PERSONNEL!
After triage is finished, the deceased should be covered and moved to the “temporary morgue” (usually a tent), and then guarded because thieves in a disaster WILL go through their pockets and purses. The morgue tent must be farther away from the other tents (like the medical one), and must be in the shade (for obvious reasons). The morgue tent should also not be located where the public can see it. If a family member approaches the morgue tent, they must be immediately escorted away from the tent after learning of the death of their loved one. We are then to tell them to “sit down,” and to try to calm them, but to not let ourselves be affected emotionally. That would be very difficult.
In an emergency, thieves/looters will also try to steal an emergency responder’s supplies.
ARE INFECTIONS THE REAL REASON FOR THE “NEW CPR?”
You may have recently heard that they no longer advise people to use mouth-to-mouth when doing CPR. They’re now advising chest compressions only. Our class learned the “real” reason for this. Approximately 57% of the population is carrying something contagious that can be transmitted during standard CPR. (Think about it – 60% to 70% of the population is estimated to have Herpes.). Some organizations don’t want to get sued if one of their rescuers is trained to do mouth to mouth who might later catch something after being advised by that organization to do it. Our class was provided with mouth protection so we can do mouth to mouth, in addition to chest compressions. You can buy them online RIGHT HERE. They attach to your key ring. Traditional CPR is more effective than chest compressions alone.
When doing chest compressions, if the victim’s shoulders move forward, your pushing deep enough. For an adult, do 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths. For a child, it’s the same if one person is doing CPR. If there are 2 people doing CPR, it’s 15 compressions followed by 2 breaths. For an infant, the hands wrap around the sides of the body and the thumbs are used to do the compressions. Doctors used to think giving someone CPR for more than 20 minutes would result in brain damage but that is not true. People have been known to survive much longer with quality CPR with no lasting brain damage. And, it’s hours longer still for people in cold weather. CPR is very physically taxing so there should be more than one person switching off with the compressions and breathing if at all possible.
THE HEIMLICH MANEUVER ALMOST ALWAYS WORKS FOR CHOKING IF DONE CORRECTLY
We learned how to do it on adults, children, pregnant women, and ourselves. I had to do the Heimlich on my ex-husband many years ago when he choked on a cough drop. I also had to do it on my children a couple of times when they were younger. The object that caused the choking always flew out of their mouths.
A PERSON’S EYES TELL YOU IF THEY’RE BEYOND SAVING
You can usually tell from looking at someone’s eyes if you’ll be able to save them. Of course, we check their vitals but people who are very close to death have a specific “look” in their eyes. And, if you lift up someone’s arm and the bottom part stays flat, it’s too late. If they are still warm and sweaty, you have a chance to save them.
MORE CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING FROM SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST THAN EVER BEFORE
This is the most controversial item in this list. Decades ago, you almost never heard of a child going into sudden cardiac arrest. Yet, it’s happening more and more these days. The person training us in CPR (a career first responder) said vaccine injuries and chemicals in foods and the environment are thought to be part of the problem. The over-medicating of our children can also be a cause. They get called for children in cardiac arrest now where they never did years ago. Vaccines do cause sudden death in some people, which we know through years of research after one of our children sustained a vaccine injury. Death is listed as a possible side effect in vaccine inserts and they give a LOT more vaccines today than they did just a few years ago.
Adults have larger bodies and have had years to get used to increasing numbers of chemicals we ingest, breathe, and touch but children’s bodies haven’t had the opportunity to be slowly introduced to these. And, of course, children are smaller and their bodies can’t always process those chemicals. We learned all of this while being trained to use an AED on children.
FIREFIGHTERS’ COOLING CHAIRS? COOL!
Volunteers fill “ice chairs” for firefighters to cool off when taking a break from fighting large fires. I had no idea! You can see a picture of one HERE.
Some fire departments won’t send their trucks out if the wind is blowing more than 40 mph.
If a building is fully engulfed, a fire department might let it burn itself out while spraying water on nearby buildings instead to protect them.
CERT VOLUNTEERS’ OTHER DUTIES
CERT volunteers might also be called to walk door to door to inform people about an impending evacuation. Or, they might need to help bus people to shelters. They may also be asked to set up tables at community events to try to get others to sign up as CERT volunteers.
KEEPING REPORTERS “CORRALLED” AFTER A DISASTER TO PREVENT MISINFORMATION, AND TO KEEP THEM OUT OF THE WAY
The local community response organization said we are never to give reporters any detailed information at all. We are to “corral” them into one place, give them a tidbit of information (if we are the one assigned to give press updates), and tell them we’ll be back in 10 minutes. We are then supposed to go back in 10 minutes, give them a bit more information (but no important details about anything), and then tell them we’ll come back again. Any information given can be “misconstrued” by the media (“fake news!”), and given to the public incorrectly and we could then be blamed for giving out false information. Keeping them waiting for more tidbits of information keeps them in one place, stops them from questioning (i.e. bothering) victims, and from getting in the way of rescue efforts. In a nutshell, just give them enough information over a long period of time to keep them feeding their viewers or readers in small tidbits, and enough to keep them in one place for an indeterminate amount of time.
It was interesting to learn the other side of the coin on this issue! Now I understand why information is so slow to receive when you’re watching the news after a disaster. The anchor person will spend an hour on live TV talking about past disasters, talking to experts about certain things, and more…yet give very little if any updates about the disaster taking place at that time. Only when there is an official press conference might you learn more details. It’s more difficult for the media to misconstrue one person’s words when they’ve aired a live press conference.
DOES YOUR FIRE EXTINGUISHER GO “THUNK?”
You’re supposed to turn your fire extinguishers upside twice a year (when you change your clocks for daylight savings time) to listen for a “thunk.” If you hear that, your fire extinguisher is no longer good. Whatever is inside may have solidified.
WHERE THE POLICE GO FIRST AFTER A DISASTER. HINT: IT’S NOT TO YOUR HOUSE!
In an emergency, police typically help hospitals and nursing homes first. If you stay behind for a natural disaster, like a hurricane, don’t expect the police to come quickly to your aid if you find yourself in a pickle.
THE TOP FOUR THINGS TO HAVE FOR BARTERING AFTER DISASTER!
Alcohol, tobacco, water, and toilet paper.
As we all learned from Katrina, any one place is only 72 hours from anarchy after a disaster. Most people only have two or three days worth of food and water.
HARD CANDY IS THERAPEUTIC FOR VICTIMS
Rescuers should carry hard candy. Sucking on something can help survivors psychologically. It gives them something to do, and something else to concentrate on.
MREs AREN’T VERY GOOD FOR YOU
Meals Ready-to-Eat are bad for folks with high blood pressure. They have a very high sodium content.
TURNING OFF ELECTRICITY AND GAS OUTSIDE BUILDINGS
We were trained to turn off electricity and gas outside of buildings. One of the handy tools I’ll need for my bag is THIS.
IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TO SUE A VOLUNTEER RESPONDER, EVEN IF THEY SCREW UP
Volunteers are protected from survivor lawsuits by Good Samaritan laws, The Federal Volunteer Protection Act of 1997, and other related state laws and statutes.
MORE WOMEN ARE REFUSING HELP FROM MALE FIRST RESPONDERS
Female volunteers are always needed because some female survivors won’t let men touch them, even rescuers, for religious or other reasons.
A BURNING MOTORCYCLE CAN EXPLODE IF YOU PUT WATER ON IT, AND POLY BLEND CLOTHING MELTS TO SKIN
Some motorcycle manufacturers use magnesium in the production process. Magnesium is VERY flammable. Do not try to put out a motorcycle fire. The fire department must do that. Putting water on a magnesium fire can be disastrous.
Poly blend clothing has plastic in it, and can melt to the skin. If clothing is stuck to a burn, cut around it. Do NOT pull the melted clothing off of the burn.
Do not put water on chemical burns.
HOSPITAL ROOM DOORS ARE FIREPROOF
If you’re in a burning hospital, and can’t find a way out, staying in a room behind that closed door, and waiting for rescue may prolong your life. Of course, if no rescue comes, you’re toast.
ALCOHOL, HAND SANITIZER, IODINE, BLEACH, AND HYDROGEN PEROXIDE – I NEVER KNEW THIS STUFF!
Rubbing alcohol is the easiest and best remedy for stings and bites in the field. You can buy individually wrapped prep pads to carry in your emergency bag.
Don’t use iodine. It can hurt people with kidney problems. Instead, for wound cleaning, use 8 drops of bleach in a gallon of clear water, or 16 drops in a gallon of cloudy water. It must then stand for 30 minutes.
Hand sanitizer is not as effective just 30 days after you buy it. Put more alcohol in bottles of hand sanitizer to keep them effective for longer periods.
Hydrogen peroxide on a wound kills good skin cells, and slows healing.
SUPER GLUE FOR SPLINTERS AND INSECT STINGERS!
Super glue works great on splinters and stingers. Put it on, let it dry, peel it off and then the splinter or stinger comes out with it. Coincidentally, I got a huge splinter in my finger that weekend during a search and rescue exercise.
WHY YOU NEVER WANT A “STERNUM RUB!”
You don’t ever want a “sternum rub” if you are even remotely conscious. It’s very painful. We had to learn how to do it. No, I did NOT volunteer to receive one!
ASKING FOR PERMISSION TO TREAT
A conscious person can decline assistance (we must always ask for permission before helping someone). An unconscious one can’t so there is implied consent to treat them. If someone who previously declined assistance passes out, then we can help them. A child who has been separated from a parent can also decline assistance. We can’t force a child to accept our help but we can try to convince them to let us help them. If they pass out, then we can treat them.
MARKING VICTIMS WITH COLORED TAPE
If we aren’t sure how to mark an injured person, we must mark them worse than they might be, rather than better, to be on the safe side. Never tell a victim how you’ve marked them. CERT members carry colored rolls of tape. Black is for the deceased, or those so terribly injured they can’t be saved with the resources available. Red requires immediate treatment to survive. Yellow is for someone who is injured but does not need immediate, life-saving treatment. Green is for the walking wounded (those who might just need stitches, or who have other minor injuries that can wait for treatment).
Never removed bandages from a wound in the field. If the victim is still bleeding, add more bandages…with pressure, of course, and a tourniquet if necessary. A tourniquet not fully tightened can be used to put pressure on a wound. If you do use a tourniquet on an arm or leg, make sure you haven’t cut off the blood supply by pressing down on a fingernail or toenail. The nail should turn from white to pink in two seconds if there is adequate blood supply.
DON’T LOSE AMPUTATED BODY PARTS!
Wrap amputated body parts with ice, and never separate the amputated body part from the victim…for obvious reasons. (“WAIT!! Where’s my toe?!?!”)
If someone is impaled with something, do not remove that object from their body. (I already knew that one.). If possible, cut the item to shorten it before transport, and then wrap the item.
Paint stirrers make great (and cheap) splints for your rescue bag. Some paint and home improvement stores give them away for free.
Splint an injury in the position you found it. Never try to straighten a broken bone in the field. Yeah, I already knew that one, too.
For a nose bleed, pinch the nostrils to put pressure on the source of the bleed, and tilt the head back, not forward. That moves the bleeding area further away from the heart.
WHY PEOPLE WITH HEAT STROKE KEEP GETTING HOTTER
When someone has heat stroke, their temperature control system shuts down so, even after they’re taken out of the heat, their temperature can keep rising.
If someone has heat exhaustion, they should drink room temperature water, not cold water. And, they should drink it slowly.
Putting cold bottles of water on the both sides of the neck, near the carotid artery, can cool someone faster.
DISARMING AN ARMED DISASTER VICTIM
If a victim has a holstered weapon, and is confused or combative, we were taught to grasp their arm on the side of the weapon, and tell them we are removing their sidearm. Two weeks ago, I got to practice convincing an armed victim to give up his weapon.
STEALING IN A DISASTER SITUATION TO SAVE A LIFE IS A-OKAY!
It’s okay in an emergency to take someone else’s equipment, supplies, or vehicle to save a life. It’s doubtful that the owner of that car you jumped in to drive that dying person to the hospital is going to try to press charges later. Likewise, running into an empty house for water or other emergency supplies isn’t likely to get you thrown in jail.
CHILDREN MAY NOT RESPOND TO EMERGENCY PERSONNEL SO YOU HAVE TO SEARCH FOR THEM
In a disaster, people (especially children) will hide inside structures. To find them, look in bathtubs, under desks, in cabinets, under beds, and in closets. Children will usually not respond if a rescuer is calling to them.
Survivors might be in shock, and may give rescuers incorrect information about the state of the building, other survivors, etc.
And, finally, we learned how to search a building for survivors, and how to mark the outside of a building when we are finished. We also learned different ways to evacuate people depending on their size.
Again, I can’t believe we learned all of this over just two days. I still have more training to do before I can be “deployed” and I am loving every minute of it. 🙂
If YOU have some spare time, and want to be part of a group that helps first responders in an emergency, I encourage you to check out the CERT program. There are more than 2,700 local CERT programs nationwide, with more than 600,000 individuals!
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Angela Hoy lives on a 52' Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch (sailboat) with her family and pets. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, BookLocker.com, and AbuzzPress, and the author of 19 books. Keep up with her family's adventurous liveaboard lifestyle at GotNoTanLines.com.
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