Training for emergencies

I am sorry, I realise the tone of this blog is a bit sombre at the moment. I am sure we will get back to the more light-hearted themes in due course, for the time being though, it is simply the way it is.

One thing which struck me thinking about it, is how when planning and practicing for emergencies we tend to focus on the mechanics of emergencies: assessing and mitigating risks, rescue techniques and tools, first aid skills etc. Obviously these are essential factors, which will have a significant impact on how a team is able to respond in case of an accident.

One thing we do not often talk about though is our reactions in such situations. Of course, one reason for this is that it is nigh on impossible to predict how you are going to be affected and what your exact response is going to be, as this depends up multiple factors – yet it is safe to assume that at one level or the other, there will inevitably be a response – and that this will affect your actions and your judgement.

I met up with a friend, let’s call him F.H., last week who had a very bad accident a couple of months ago. I was interested in hearing what he could remember of the immediate aftermath of the accident. He recounted how he has a clear recollection of lying on the ground, on his side, unable to move, realising that he was in a really bad condition. His work mate came rushing over, F.H. asked him to pull his mobile phone out of this pocket and give it to him. He then phoned his wife, told her he had had a really bad fall and that it was not looking good – and hung up. After that, things turned really hectic, paramedics and police turning up on site, he was rushed off to hospital and operated upon for hours…

In the meantime, his wife was sitting at home, unable to reach him or anybody else on site by phone, going absolutely frantic.

It would not even occur to me to be judgemental or critical of this reaction. I totally get what F.H. was doing when he made the call, what can be more understandable when you are really badly injured than to want to speak to the person you love to let him or her know what has happened. Yet in such a situation your body is working in overdrive, your judgment, whilst it may feel clear in the moment, may well be clouded and you actions far from rational. It might have made sense in this situation for F.H. to ask his work mate to make the call to his wife – and to keep her updated.

So maybe this is something one ought to be discussing as part of planning and training for emergencies: not just how to place the call to emergency services, but who else to get in touch with, how to make the call and who makes the call. Do we have access to the relevant numbers of next of kin, for instance?

Of course, this is not immediately relevant to the handling of the casualty, yet will certainly have a mitigating effect upon the collateral damage, upset and trauma caused by such an incident.