Something I’ve been interested for a while now is making order out of chaos. I’ve spoken to friends of mine who have been in combat – one a former Navy Seal Medic, and also emergency responders as well as two former homicide detectives. I’ve been working on combining the tips and tricks of what these seasoned professionals do when they are first faced with a traumatic chaotic event. What is the order of how to make sense of things when the shit has hit the fan and how to apply those steps to an event a civilian may face when an earthquake or other natural disaster has hit.
Most of the time the training these people have received is specific and tailored to their specific jobs – there were clear steps each would take. All be it these steps varied widely depending on the scenario there seemed to be a common thread among all of their methods. Each would peel one layer of the onion away at a time. None of them would take a knife an cut to the center. They all made it clear individual steps had to be taken – skipping steps caused harm to either oneself or the injured person or the chain of custody. Skipping steps caused either harm or death of a fellow team mate or bystanders.
The take away from all these conversations was the following:
- Stabilize the Environment – Make sure the structure is safe or stable enough to allow entry. Whether it be an Earthquake or a firefight, the structure you are entering must be taken in phases. Take it in small steps, get through the front door and analyze the threat. Either move on or stabilize this part of the structure then figure out if you can proceed. There are an incredible amount of variables but if you think about each step being a series of ‘Go’ / ‘No Go’ questions you will be able to make progress and get to the injured or the problem. Fools rush in.
- Stabilize any medical needs – Think about the ABC’s. I’ve written previously about the need to change this term to the CAB – Circulation, Airway, Breathing. Especially in a disaster situation bleeding will kill in 30 seconds so stabilizing a bleeding victim is priority one. Tend to the injured ASAP and get them out to a safe location.
- Secure the perimeter – Make sure you get everyone including the non injured to a safe place. Look for faults in structure, downed power lines, vulnerable lines of attack. Turn off utilities – power, gas, water. Again, this area is vast with it’s variables depending on what the specific situation is. If the event was large enough it could be several days or weeks till things begin to normalize so you must know your environment and what it will take to live within it and survive. If you are in a cold climate what will your plan be to keep people warm and sheltered through the night? Knowing in advance how to deal with these things will help you if and when an event happens. Along with securing your perimeter is checking on your neighbors. Are their elderly in the area who might need help? Is the neighbor down the street who always thought prepping was a waste of time hurt or displaced? Unfortunately, no matter how much you’d like to let them realize the hard way they were wrong and you were right – helping them now is the most important thing for securing your perimeter. Happy neighbors along your perimeter will create a buffer zone aid in keeping riff raff at a distance.
- Establish Communications – What are the ways you can communicate? Do you have your HAM radio? Cel phone? Painting SOS on your roof? What ever the lines of communication are, the sooner you can get them up the better. Sending and receiving intel about the event will allow professionals and other members of your family and community to assess the situation enabling them to send assets to the correct location.
- Recover Data – When the situation has stabilized recover data. If it is your home try to recover legal papers, pictures, computers, insurance policies. Hopefully you have organized these in advance and you know exactly where they are so even in rubble you should be able to locate the rough geography in the structure of where they should be.
Many of the people I spoke with had mission specific things they would do, but in the end the common thread which applies to civilians faced with a disaster was those steps. Many times in military or law enforcement situations these people would establish communications ASAP, but for a civilian tending to the injured will become a priority.