Where is that first aid kit anyway?

The floor beneath your feet buckles and rolls. The walls around you groan. An earthquake tears the ground apart. You drop, cover, and hold on. You stay in that position until the last tremors pass. Perfect.

Then what?

First inspect yourself. If you have no injuries, put on sturdy shoes, a dust mask, and eye protection if these things are handy.

Get out your first aid kit and inspect the other people around you.

The simple fact is you may not be able to phone emergency services after an earthquake. You may not be able to phone anyone at all. If phones are still working, resources may be stretched thin and it could be a long time before help arrives.

Most earthquake-related injuries do not happen during the movement of the earth. They are a result of collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects. That means cuts, bruises and maybe even broken bones. 

If someone around you is injured, the Southern California earthquake site says to do the following:

  • If a person is bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound. Use clean gauze or cloth, if available.
  • If a person is not breathing, administer rescue breathing.
  • If a person has no pulse, begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
  • Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Cover injured persons with blankets or additional clothing to keep them warm.

The United States Department of Labor site says: Fire is the most common earthquake-related hazard, due to broken gas lines, damaged electrical lines or appliances, and previously contained fires or sparks being released.

  • Do you know the right first aid for a burn?

The Mayo Clinic offers information on first aid for burns here.

On top of these risks, you have to think about shock. Shock can divert blood and oxygen away from the body’s vital organs.

  • Do you know the physiological symptoms of shock?

Hint: the skin may be cold and clammy, the pulse may race and the eyes may seem faraway or fixed on a single spot.

  • Do you know how to treat a person for shock?

Hint: have the person lie down, elevate the feet, loosen the clothing and keep the person warm. 

Read more about recognizing and treating shock on the Mayo Clinic site.

All of this information should be in a booklet inside your first aid kit. Now is the time to check that you have what you need. If not, why not go to some of these sites that offer great first aid instructions and print a copy for your grab-and-go bag.


Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Polish First Aid by Łukasz Rychlik

What do you do when the lights go out?

There are three stages to a disaster:

  • preparation—planning, training, exercises, etc
  • event—this is when the most lives are at stake and time is off the essence
  • recovery—when efforts are made to restore life to the way it once was.

If you want to prepare for a disaster, there are several web-based games and quizzes that can help you in your efforts. Two of these are:

  • Just For Kids webpage from the government of British Columbia
  • FEMA also has a kids’ page with some excellent tests including one that prints as a graphic novel featuring the Disaster Masters when completed

But these two sites are part of the preparation stage of a disaster. They lead to another question: what are you going to do to amuse yourself after the event has passed? Major disasters often result in damage that can take literally months to repair. That may mean a lot of time without power or your usual activities. If you don’t have a computer to read, a Wii to play with, or phone service to text your friends, let alone a ride to soccer practice, how will you stay busy and avoid the trap of boredom and maybe even depression?

Does your emergency kit contain anything on this list:

  • A book
  • Pen, pencil and paper
  • A small musical instrument
  • A sewing kit
  • A deck of cards or
  • A portable game like you might take on a car trip?

What else might you include for entertainment in case you have to leave home for a few days?


Photo from iStock: Child and mother by Toffic


Is it really that hard?

Recently I read this wonderful story of survival on Steven Pressfield’s site:

Marissa Panigrosso, worked on the 98th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. She recalled that when the first plane hit the North Tower on September 11, 2001, a wave of hot air came through her glass windows as intense as opening a pizza oven.

She did not hesitate. She didn’t even pick up her purse, make a phone call or turn off her computer. She walked quickly to the nearest emergency exit, pushed through the door and began the ninety-eight-stairway decent to the ground. What she found curious is that far more people chose to stay right where they were. […]Why would they choose to stay in such a vulnerable place in such an extreme circumstance?

Because they were human beings and human beings find change to be extremely difficult, practically impossible. To leave without being instructed to leave was a risk. What were the chances of another plane hitting their tower, really? And if they did leave, wouldn’t their colleagues think that they were over-reacting, running in fear? They should stay calm and wait for help, maintain an even keel. And that’s what they did. I probably would have too……..by Shawn Coyne

Last month, I failed to respond quickly to a very minor but dramatic change in my surroundings so this article resonated with me.

But one thing I am good at, is preparing for the bleeding obvious. Example: in August the RCMP (aka the Mounties) put on a free performance of their iconic Musical Ride. For those who haven't seen it, the Musical Ride is a display of equestrian skills set to music - dressage meets military drill - that started in the 19th century. With roots in the British calvary tradition, it is now uniquely Canadian. Because of the logistics of transporting all those people, horses, and equipment, it doesn't come to a local neighbourhood very often. 

The performance was scheduled for 6:30 in the evening on a hot summer’s day. Most people could figure out that it would be a popular family event and arrived early. Some even brought their own seating. Good planning. The vast majority of the crowd arrived on that simmering afternoon without hats. Families arrived at 5:30 with toddlers and even infants without food or water. 

Okay I get it that Canada is a cold country so normally we don’t think we need to shield our scalps, skin or eyes from the sun (most doctors would vehemently disagree). But it was summer, one of the driest. The weather was true to forecast that day: hot and sunny. No one had to react to an emergency situation. They just had to plan for known conditions. And they didn’t.

Fortunately the event organizers understood how dependent the general public would be. They handed out free bottles of water. The Mounties distributed a limited supply of cardboard hats that acted as sun visors. The safety net of other people’s preparation provided for them.

That makes me wonder how these people would react to a sudden and dramatic emergency: will they have any food, any water, any first aid supplies? Or will they be looking to others to care for them because they can’t care for themselves? Will they stay in their tower until someone tells it’s time to go? 

How prepared are you to react and survive?


Photo by: Alan Bolitho, LM

Can I get a redo?

Photo: Failed by VCTStyle

There are three stages to emergency planning: preparation, the event, and recovery. In June I blogged about how to prepare psychologically for the recovery stage of an emergency or disaster. Now I’m wondering how to prepare psychologically for the event itself.

Hypothetical situation: it’s a sunny, warm summer day. This month is the driest on record for your city. One evening around dinnertime you look out the front window and find a raging river of mud has taken over your street.

Do you:

  1. Throw on your bathing suit and flip flops and go wading with all the kids?
  2. Grab your camera and start taking pictures?
  3. Text your BF to come over and enjoy the spectacle?
  4. Hide under your bed until it’s all over?
  5. See if you still have fresh water and fill up every large container in your house in case supply is disrupted?

Any answer but #5 is a fail. What did I do? I grabbed my camera and took pictures. When neighbours emerged from their houses to look at it with me, I enjoyed a social moment. Then and only then did I go inside and start doing what I should have done at the outset.

I’ve been a safety warden in an office tower and had the helmet and flashlight to prove it. I’ve trained to prepare properties for bushfires with Fire & Rescue New South Wales. I’ve taken emergency preparedness courses with North Shore Emergency Management teams. It feels like I should have responded more sensibly.

One good thing – it was only a ruptured water main. The District of North Vancouver moved its crews in quickly and cleared the mess. But in a true disaster, like a major earthquake, there won’t be nearly enough resources to go around. That river of mud and debris would signal our drinking water running down to the sea with no hope of recovering it.

The risk of thinking about disasters is that we may only prepare for recovery. Is there any way to prepare for the event itself? I’m not sure. I like to think of Tuesday’s event as a dress rehearsal where the result came back must try harder.

Have you ever been in an emergency situation where you wish you’d responded more proactively? Or have you ever done exactly what you should have done and felt that sense of being in control, as much as being in control is possible in an emergency or disaster situation? 


Photo by Maggie Bolitho

How do you prepare your inner self?

Okay so you’ve prepared yourself for disaster. If you’ve ticked each of these:

Maslow, with his Hierarchy of Needs would probably give you an A-plus for meeting the two bottom levels of his pyramid. Those levels are physiological necessities and personal safety.

Most emergency prep instructions only address these two core levels. Some add the other important component:

Should there be another level to emergency preparation? You know that old game ‘if you could only take one book with you to a desert island, what would it be?’ Maybe you should put a copy of that cherished entertainment into your pack. Maybe these items should be added to the checklist:

  • Books, cards, and board games, things allow us to escape to another world when our immediate environment offers little joy.

One thing we will have to cope with after a major disaster is the troubling uncertainty of life around us. Perhaps our packs should have meditation CD’s and Tibetan singing bowls? Impractical for sure but you get my point. We don’t have to be just physically prepared for disaster, we have to brace ourselves psychologically as well.

The dog in this picture is wearing an Anxiety Wrap that uses maintained pressure and acupressure to end thunderstorm fear, separation anxiety, noise phobias and more. I don’t know if it works or not but if it does, I wonder if the technology couldn’t be applied for humans? If so, we could all pack an anxiety wrap in our bug-out bag.

Are you good with sudden and dramatic changes in your life? How does a person prepare themselves for the unthinkable? Is there any point in trying or should we just go with the flow should worse come to worst?


Photo from Wikimedia Commons by: www.anxietywrap.com