The following post is contributed by Dan, a wilderness guide, who has led teams of doctors and nurses on medical diaster response trips throughout the world.
What does a person who has “been there, done that” have to say?
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Many of us ponder, even fantasize over what our world here in the USA would be like if we had a wide-scale disaster, whether it be natural or man-made. We plan, we prepare, but we still don’t really understand the impact. Even when a large-scale disruption like Katrina occurs, because of our nation’s affluence and infrastructure, we overcome much of the physical hardship. This is not to minimize the true pain and suffering individuals encounter, but to point out it’s all relative.
For example, I was part of a disaster relief team in a heavily damaged location in Mississippi, arriving four days after Katrina hit. The local Lowes had tractor trailers lined up unloading supplies. I’ve never seen so many chainsaws piled so high. There were backhoes and heavy equipment of every description on every street with dump trucks…you get my point. In Haiti, six days after the earthquake, you could still smell the decaying bodies. I only saw two backhoes the entire 18 days I was in Port-au-Prince.
My point is, if you want to experience the end of life as we know it, volunteer to work in a disaster in a third world. But don’t just show up, join a legitimate disaster relief organization, get some training on what to expect once you are “in country.” Here is some advice:
1. Join a credible organization that has specific goals that meet your world view. You might not appreciate the evening Bible study if you join a Christian relief organization even though I’m sure they would enjoy your company. By the way, we had two representatives from a NGO (non-governmental) stay with us in Haiti. Their mission: to evaluate all relief organizations, both governmental and private. The Christian relief organizations were much more effective, their words-not mine!
2. Research what type of medical care you will be providing in a disaster. In Haiti, we had three brilliant ER Doc’s who were not happy because they were doing clinic work. They felt under-utilized. When we moved into the hospital setting, our ER Docs were happy but our family practice Doc felt uncomfortable with the steady stream of trauma patients.
3. Get disaster training!! I cannot over emphasis how important this subject is. I’m sure most of the readers of this article are very well trained in medical issues, but here are some things to consider:
- Do you know the indigenous signs for landmines?
- Do you know how to prepare safe drinking water? How much water?
- What local foods in this 3rd world country can I eat without getting sick?
- What do you mean I have to squat over this hole in the ground to relieve myself!! Oh – no, I forgot the toilet paper!
- No shower for two weeks?!?!?!!!
- There’s nothing like a 14 year old boy with an AK-47 searching through your backpack at a road block.
- What should be in my bug out bag?
- Team security – rally points – escape/evasion
- Be mindful of “when helping hurts!” If you’re not familiar with this term, find out!
Advanced, real life training will help you determine if disaster relief is your cup of tea. Probably a good 80% of the people we train for disasters, never go on deployment. To be honest, some just cannot arrange time off on short notice, but a good percentage just don’t like the hardship a disaster will bring. It’s really hard, hot, exhausting, and at times scary work, yet very rewarding.
Now to tie this all back to Armageddon Medicine. Experience is the best teacher. I’m convinced we in the USA do not really know hardship and therefore it is difficult to prepare for it. Working with disaster relief is one concrete way to prepare. Yes, we can stockpile food, water, guns, ammo, and medicine, but by working in disaster relief teams, you can prepare while serving your fellow man and most importantly, God!
Copyright © 2011 Dan, Wilderness Guide, Disaster Relief