Category Archives: Volunteers
Below you will find the August content of my monthly Disaster in Place. Disaster in Place is an email series I began in May 2013 to engage Medical Reserve Corps team members to think practically about preparedness for just a few minutes a month and increase our alert responses (what we use in Virginia to see who is available to respond in disaster). It comes complete with training and educational opportunities for those who are so inclined. (I wrote a blog post introducing this series back in May!)
I’ve been instituting the Disaster in Place training series with my three MRC units since May and am happy to share stats, info, and previous months’ with you. Feel free to participate, use and share, but if you do, please let me know so I can keep track of the reach of this program! It would be quite appreciated. I’ll be posting these every month…enjoy!
August Disaster in Place – Chemical Event!
Welcome to the fourth of our monthly Disaster in Place series. As always, please click on the alert link in this message and indicate you did or did not participate in this exercise so we can track that everyone knows how to receive and respond to requests with availability!
This month’s scenario is a chemical event.
A chemical exposure can happen for a few reasons, including terrorism and human error in a factory or even at home. If you were exposed to a chemical material, how would you react? Would you know to remove exposed clothing and wash for fifteen minutes with soap and water (or what we call decontamination)? What if that chemical was at home and a family member or friend was exposed?
For information about various chemical agents, including lists, FAQ’s, and decontamination, check out this fantastic resource from the CDC: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/chemical/
For additional training on hazardous materials at home, visit this free online course from FEMA, IS-55.a: Household Hazardous Materials ? A Guide for Citizens http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/courseOverview.aspx?code=IS-55.a
For even more training, check out this course from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – Intro to Chemical Agents: http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-public-health-preparedness/training/online/intro_chem_agents.html
And remember these important numbers: Poison Control Center – 800-222-1222 and Virginia 2-1-1 for all types of questions, connections and resources.
Hope you enjoyed this month!
If you’ve read my previous post, you know I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am going to engage my non-emergency minded colleagues and volunteers. I’m always thinking about that because I know that if I can get everyone involved, resiliency skyrockets!
Engage! Colleagues, that is.
This past week, I participated in facilitating a disaster behavioral health seminar and something occurred to me…they totally nailed the engagement concept!
It seems we spend a lot of time encouraging folks to take Incident Command System (ICS) courses, learn our FEMA ways, and give our jargon a special place in their hearts. Now, I absolutely believe this is a necessity for responding to disaster. Especially when we’re asking folks to become acclimated to a field they know nothing of and connect with on a basis of once to never. It might seem foreign, but ICS is where it all starts!
There’s just one thing we forget to do sometimes. To teach people where they fit in, why they fit there, and how to fulfill their specific role.
Does this go here?
At the seminar last week, they didn’t get lost in the weeds of leadership. And what I mean is this – ICS tells us how to lead, what the overarching structure is and a broad overview of the ins and outs of organizing emergency response. We have to know this, but we need to know more. We need each block of that organizational chart to function independently and completely to make each branch, section and dotted line as efficient as possible.
Our speakers and our participants acknowledged the inner workings of ICS, but then did something wonderful with the information. They recognized where they fall in the system and how they can fulfill the role they’d be given. They focused on how to be consistent, work together, and make their branch of incident response as efficient, effective and generally as rad as possible. Yeah, I said it.
It’s safe to say that most of our colleagues and volunteer members won’t have to lead during an emergency, so we have to meet people where they’re at when it comes to emergency information.
If I don’t make ICS applicable, if I don’t go that one step further and say, “You are here, and this is how you make your role successful so that others may be successful,” I am failing those I am asking to serve, and I’m failing those they will support. And I really, really hate to fail.
You know how I feel, Twitter fail whale.
Not bringing the information to where people are at and giving them a reason to care and a way to be successful leaves us talking to an empty room. And I don’t think that’s just in emergency management.
For more information:
If you haven’t completed and Incident Command Systems courses, visit FEMA’s Independent Study website, and start with ICS 100 (b, most likely, but there are equivalents tailored to certain types of organizations). Then give IS 700.a a go for an introduction to the National Incident Management System. These are the basics to get you started! If you love that, explore what other ICS courses FEMA has to offer, and in the meantime, locate your agency or local emergency manager and find out what your role might be and how to get ready for it.
There aren’t a lot of jobs that require everyone’s participation. And not just everyone in a certain facility or agency, I mean everyone. It’s tough sometimes! I certainly find myself “silo-ing” people into their jobs. I don’t know how to be engaged and I’ll never need to know how to be engaged. I think in the emergency world we find a lot of the same thing. We have jobs to do and whether people know we exist and what our jobs are, they expect they’ll be done and all will be well.
But it just takes more than that.
Working with professionals who have volunteered their time, I am now much more accustomed to adjusting to individuals who don’t think of emergency management on any type of regular basis. It’s kept me from having tunnel-vision or becoming so immersed inside an emergency management world that I forget how to relate with the public. (It’s also done wonders for this fast-talking acronym lover! To slooooow down, spell things out, give meaning to each word of our accurately/overly descript titles!)
Couldn’t have said it better, public health memes!
That being said, I know no matter how many disasters happen, and no matter what has actually impacted our area, encouraging people to think about disasters and preparedness on a realistic level is still a challenge. This is true for community members, colleagues in all types of organizations, schools, and so on. But I think I might have a solution that will help engage people using the best ally we have in preparedness: their minds! ♫Dun dun dun!!♫♪
As an emergency management addict – yes, I’ll admit it – I live thinking about the “worst case scenario” every day. Behind a truck with a radioactive symbol on the highway? I’m planning. Driving through gasoline storage tanks? Planning. Standing at the edge of the ocean? Planning! Random zombie apocalypse in Wal-Mart? Oh, you know I’m planning. I’m sorry, but no disaster scenario you throw me into is going to be as colorful as my “what if…”
So I wonder, what will the public’s “what if’s” do for them?
This month, I will begin a new series with my awesome Medical Reserve Corps teams and leave it open for adaptation in any facility that would like to play off of it. It’s called Disaster in Place and will be more than just a tool to raise “alert” response numbers (those availability responses I monitor when I send out events, tests, etc.) For example, for the month of May, I have scheduled to send out alerts to all three of my units on Tuesday during standard business hours on an Active Shooter scenario. However, the scenario won’t be mine to write.
It will begin with the explanation of Disaster in Place, the purpose and the instructions on how to successfully complete it. (For those of you that may want to replicate this idea, what I’m more or less using is below.) But I won’t leave my friends without some educational resources as well! Months ago, after the Aurora, CO shooting, I encouraged my members to take FEMA’s IS 907 Active Shooter: What You Can Do and we had some interest. But talking yourself through your own active shooting plan, right where you are at that very moment? That may encourage a little more planning indeed. I will also include a link previously shared on some of our Facebook sites, Houston’s popular RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. video on YouTube is a very clear, useful way to consider your choices in an active shooting incident.
The purpose is to leave our members feeling ready (and maybe even the people around them, if word spreads!). Not to live in fear, but to live in preparedness. To create strong, powerful communities where everyone is a part of my job and that’s what makes it successful. Disaster in Place will have several elements I think are critical for success – giving our communities something they can think, something they can see, and something they can do.
Next month, we’ll give severe weather a shot one evening or on the weekend! And once that catches on, I think letting people choose the time/place of that days drill will be appropriate and even more engaging. Stay tuned and I’ll update how it goes, and if you decide to participate, please comment, or shoot me an email and let’s share some great ideas.
Want to implement Disaster in Place in your organization? Here’s a snapshot of what’s cooking in my MRC’s:
Purpose: To engage non-emergency management related personnel at least once a month in their normal environments in order to increase awareness, personal preparedness and readiness. (MRC specific purpose: to also increase our alert response and stay actively connected to our members.)
Introduction: Our introduction looks a little something like this…
Good afternoon team,
This month we will begin our Disaster in Place series, designed to increase awareness, preparedness and response no matter what your environment today may be! Please take five minutes to participate in the exercise, and respond to this alert with a “yes” or “no” that you have done so. Please respond either way so we may track our alert response rate, even if you are not able to participate.
This month’s scenario is an Active Shooter event. Please take two minutes to review your surroundings where you are right now. What are your exits? Where are your hiding spaces? What resources, such as phones, windows, and other people are around you? Now take three minutes and decide, what would you do if an active shooter were to advance towards your area?
For tips on what you can do in an event like this, please review the following 5:22 video: Run. Hide. Fight.
For additional FEMA training, please advance to the following course at your leisure and forward your certificate to your coordinator, if you choose to participate.
Thank you for all that you do!
Goal: To require as little time as possible in order to encourage participation – professionals are busy! But in the end, you make time for what you care about, and I believe our members will do just that. We’re asking for a five minute interlude in their day, we’re offering several more minutes of optional training, with an unlimited potential community value.
I’m a Medical Reserve Corps coordinator by day, and a Medical Reserve Corps coordinator by night. Yes, that’s right. When disasters happen in any one of my areas at any time, I jump into response mode!
I love disasters. Not to say I love what they bring with them, but I love the opportunity to protect the community where I live and work by providing focused coordination for people who want to do good work for the people who need it most. In case you’re not familiar, a Medical Reserve Corps unit is a team of dedicated medical and non-medical professionals who have committed their own personal time to promoting disaster preparedness, response, and often times public health. Literally people who have made a decision to become part of something bigger than themselves.
Working with people who have actually donated their time because they care about their community as much as I do is a complete privilege and an honor. In Virginia, we have over 13,000 members (to my last recollection). That is 13,000 people who have said, yes! I cared enough to commit my free time to preparedness. 13,000 people who could potentially be looking after you in a shelter, a disease outbreak, a mass shooting, an act of terrorism. 13,000 people who don’t need us, but how much we need them is unfathomable.
Everyone cares about emergency preparedness directly following the impact of a natural disaster or a catastrophic event. But in order for emergency management to do any good at all, we need people to care what happens when nothing is happening. And it isn’t always the easiest job in the world to convince people to spend money they don’t have on things that will “never happen here.”
Well then, aren’t you lucky? No matter what state you’re in, MRC members are turning the idea of preparedness into the act of preparedness. I think we all recognize that statistically speaking, prepared communities are more resilient before, during and after a disaster. And it isn’t just the MRC by any means, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), American Red Cross, and various Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) are also becoming the conduits for our message. Being word of mouth advertising, planning for their families and themselves.
Want to spread a message of preparedness quickly and efficiently and skip the part where you convince people it’s necessary? Try one of these free resources that include people who have already made a statement – I’m part of something bigger than myself.
Virginia MRC: www.vamrc.org
National MRC: www.medicalreservecorps.gov
American Red Cross: www.redcross.org