Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lesson Four: Training

Lesson Four: If You Aren’t TRAINED, You Aren’t Prepared

Being trained and without a kit is dumb. A kit without training is a paperweight.

You can stockpile water, food, guns, ammunition, fuel, and all other type of survival/preparedness gear, including medical supplies.
But if you don’t know what to get, or how to use it, you’re approaching udders on a bull in terms of functional utility or general preparedness.

So until they sell freeze-dried dehydrated Doctor-In-A-Box, or someone invents a real medical hologram doctor like the one on Star Trek Spinoff 23, you’d better get some training.

In virtually any kind of disaster or emergency, untrained people are generally part of the problem, not part of the solution. At best, they’re what a friend described once as WIRIBs: Well-Intentioned, Reasonably Intelligent Bystanders. You hope. At worst, they’re a PITA (look that one up yourself).

But you want to be more than that, you want to be trained. Excellent! Now what?

Bare minimum should be taking the Red Cross’ Basic First Aid and CPR class, which takes one whole Saturday. It’s geared for a 5th grader with a room temperature IQ, and the book has lots of pictures. But it’s far better than nothing, if only to whet your appetite. The other downside is it relies a lot on “activating 9-1-1”. The whole problem is there may not be any 9-1-1 to activate after...Katrina, Mississippi floods, the Northridge Earthquake, the L.A. riots, or a mishap 2 days on foot from the nearest road in Yellowstone National Park, let alone anything far worse.

Where they offer it, their advanced class is a step up. But only just a step.

To really get some horsepower, find the local community college or occupational program EMT class for EMT-1. (Forget the other levels unless you’re looking for a job.) It’s 110 hours, give or take, which is a one-semester college class. If I were Emperor, it would be required training for everyone to graduate from high school, or at least to enter college. Period. That’s where I’d recommend you start. And check around for the best class and instructors you can find, if there’s a choice. Come the day when you need the training, you can’t call them up and ask them about the stuff they glossed over, so find a class with well-qualified and enthusiastic instructors. It makes a big difference, and it’s your time and money.

Now I’m going to brag a little on my instructors. I had the great good fortune to get into a one-of-a-kind Red Cross first aid class that’s no longer offered, geared precisely toward backcountry/disaster medical care. It was taught by thorough professionals, and approximately twice as long and ten times as intense as any EMT course you’ll find. I lucked out. In fact, when I and two friends from the first class took an EMT class after this gem of preparation, we not only aced it, but ended up helping the under-prepared staff teach it, and we set up one doozy of a practical experience for our other classmates. In fact, nursing school was easier than my advanced first aid class. No, I’m not kidding.

So what? You already said that class doesn’t exist anymore...?

True. But what does exist are most of the components my instructors utilized to teach us so well.
1) Wilderness modules from local or national sports chain stores, dive shops, or the local hiking/mountaineering group. There isn’t much difference between backcountry first aid considerations and disaster first aid concerns, except the scenery is prettier. Take the scenic route.
2) Volunteer for health fairs, etc. When your first practice in taking blood pressures is doing it in a noisy mall, with disco/Elvis muzak playing overhead, on 150 elderly folks with thread little pulses, you’ll never forget how to do it right the rest of your life. There’s also helpful, experienced coworkers, and nobody’s life is at stake.
3) Other volunteer opportunities. I can’t say enough about Paying It Forward. Before I ever got through nursing school, I’d done 2 marathons, including the L.A. one, 20 walkathons, 3 bike races, 8 rodeos and related horsey events (barrel races etc.), 3 Rose Parades, 4 Hollywood Christmas Parades, 6 annual airshows (with 100,000+ attendees in 100 degree heat), karate tournaments, numerous community parades and events, 2 brushfires, 1 World Cup Soccer series, a major earthquake - including a week running 4 shelter aid stations with 20 people working for moi, and the L.A. Riots. All for free. Such a deal!
Both subsequent schooling and paid employment were nothing to worry about after that. And I got to practice the trade on real patients!
Things I didn’t do, but which are equally valuable, are local search and rescue teams (the ones that actually get out there and do stuff, not the chair and EazyUp commandos) , Ski Patrol, lifeguarding, and probably 20 other regular or occasional things you could find in your local area.
Get as trained as you can, and avail yourself of the opportunities for hands-on practice before it’s you or your family that needs the help.

I started out to get trained for general preparedness reasons. I ended up with a new career that’s kept food in the fridge and a roof over my head the last 12 years, and it’s never boring. So if EMT and volunteer work aren’t enough for you, the sky is the limit. Of the people I first trained with at the Red Cross, 2 are now M.D.s, 3 are P.A.s, 3 others are nurses, 6 are firefighter/EMT/paramedics, and several more have found ways to get paid for what we used to do for free.

Even if that’s got nothing to do with your plans, the rewards I get (other than monetary) are the exact same ones I got for free the first time someone needed help, and I was there, ready to go to work. To say nothing of the personal peace of mind in knowing what to do, how to avoid a trip to the ER, or know when it’s absolutely vital to get someone there, and how to care for them until it happens.

That’s trained.

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