Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Useful Lessons from Rescue

Mountain Search & Rescue training
with UP Mountaineers
 Some things I learned from my rescue trainings, or actual incidents – and how we can apply to everyday problems:

1. Hierarchy of Needs. Accident, incident or any problem have their unique ‘need to address this’ priority list. In the right order.

a. Ex. in steep mountain rescue scenario (assuming we’ve done our planning/ survey the scene stage), although we’re taught to perform primary care (cardio/breathing) first, if there’s an obvious risk for the victim to fall down (or fall down further) – the need#1 is to secure him/her FIRST, but very quickly. #2 would be check his pulse/breathing then perform necessary medical attention. Next phase (assuming stabilized) is the need to evacuate the victim. In that order. Another example in scuba diving, if say at 70ft, a diver panics, drop his/her regulator (mouth piece) and swims fast upwards – the need#1 is to STOP him/her from ascending quickly (even without his/her regulator on). We normally pull the leg down, or fins or whatever we can grab – this is to avoid air embolism (air expansion) which will instantly injure if not kill the diver. THEN need#2 is to put back the regulator in place (his/her or yours). Then relax him/her, then surface slowly if needed. In that order.

b. We face big or urgent problems every now and then – and determining this ‘hierarchy of needs’ will help bring the right solution in place and hopefully fast. That – or the problem becomes more complicated. Ex. if your house was suddenly on a big fire – do you: get the baby/kid out first, try to control the fire on your own first, or sound the alarm. Each situation dictates different priority sequence – and assuming you have good ‘fear control’ – quick thinking will allow you to decide the most-right priority hierarchy of what to do. (And in this particular crisis case – drills will ‘automate the process’). Key tip here is: do the right things first.

2. The continuum. There’s a start (trigger); the process, and the end – which could either be, the victim is safe and sound, or worse. Remember this principle – the closer or nearer your action is from the trigger, the more chance of success (less chance of death) and less effort for you as the rescuer.

a. Mountain example: a climber showing advanced symptoms of hypothermia. Say, your team is 1-2hrs away to the next camp and the weather is windy bad, you may either do something now (who wants to stop and rest under a bad weather), or ‘fix the issue’ in the camp. Obviously, there’s that best chance to address the issue if the team stops - assuming stopping is an option (i.e. the team is not in an exposed ridge or dangerous slope). In the mid-90s, someone died in Halcon (not to blame the team mates) of hypothermia, if the problem was addressed in the lower part of the mountain – it might have a different ending.

b. (I use diving examples as I had frequent bouts w/ issues there). In diving, when a diver panics – he/she just reacts to things (without thinking) and might do harmful action – ex. ascending very fast. As dive masters – we were taught how to immediately try to stop an incident from happening by monitoring signs of impending problem. Controlling panic for one (the typical trigger or 2nd trigger) will already avoid a lot of complex problems underwater. A panicky person will have different behaviour, from being very passive (‘tulala’), to wide-eyed, or hyperventilating, etc. If a problem unabatedly matures (say someone panicked, ascended fast, and exhibited severe frothing mouth in the surface – the rescuer/DM’s rescue effort would be bigger and chance of serious injury or death for the victim is larger.

c. This continuum is mostly self-evident in most of our big or urgent problems in life. Ex. Someone suddenly threatens you with a knife and demanded for your wallet. What do you do? Give him/her your wallet! If you argue and thought about ‘talking yourself out’ – you’re just prolonging the problem and your risk exposure. In the end, you may just end up in a deadly fight, for what – your wallet? Key point here: act rightfully fast.

3. The power of touch. Gladly, Filipinos just like Latinos – are generally ‘karinyoso’ – sometimes interpreted as flirty and touchy – which may be true. ;) So this ‘touch’ could be naturally used – but appropriately. I remember talking to an American teammate in Denali who was a 30yr veteran as a paramedic/rescuer. I asked him how was his overall ‘life’ as a rescuer and he said – 80+% of his work, is about holding someone’s hand and telling him/her that “everything’s gonna be alright”. In diving, at the first sign of possible panic – we were taught (or at least that’s what I learned/remember) to control someone’s panic by firmly holding the concerned diver’s arm. Preferably glove-less (-it is apparently more ‘personal’ and hence more effective). The hold/touch affirms that you are there to help and THAT could instantly remove panic or fear. In life, we always do this – loved ones are normally hugged (much better), or their hands touched for assurance. Friends who were in their low moments could likewise feel better by a caring touch. Even pets loved this sign of affection. A troubled stranger, or a victim in pain - might be more tricky, a simple shoulder touch coupled by ‘you ok?’ might just help. Key point here: give a touch of care as part of your problem or psyche-solving actions.

4. Glow (or aura) of confidence (or authority). Rescuers who are seen (by the victim) as the saviour, will mostly address some pre-rescue issues (like proper cooperation). Obviously – training and experience contributes to this glow. How we show ourselves (confident/ not-panicking / firm ) in tackling problems will send an unspoken message to the people around us. The concerned people might silently ask - Will I cooperate and let him help me/us? Can he/she really address this problem? Will I let him/her be on top of this situation? Should I run to him/her now and get help? Key point: show confidence/authority in dealing w/ problems.

We may not be the knight in shining armour, but being an occasional ninja saviour to our friends, family or strangers may just add a good spice in our or other people’s lives.

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