Link Roundup

I’m visiting my grandparents in Florida for the week, and in an attempt to relax, I’ve been reading more than writing. Here are some of the interesting things I’ve found:

Article about a 17 year old in Massachusets who started a Facebook page after a tornado hit her town and completely changed how the town responded to the recovery

A bit late, but this writer suggested tracking Twitter hashtags during the Superbowl to see how quickly information would move during a crisis event.

I read this post on Spirituality in Preparedness on this EM blog and have found myself thinking about it quite a lot over the past couple of days. While attending mass with them yesterday, I found myself wondering if the church had a disaster plan–or how many of the congregation had emergency kits. The author also tells the background of the Maltese Cross, a crest seen on most firefighters.

I’m currently obsessed with Adulting, a blog about becoming a grown-up in 387 easy(ish) steps, so obviously I was thrilled when I came across this post about having an emergency kit for your house

This would be a great bulletin board idea.

One of my coworkers has been printing these out, because almost every one of them is true: You Know You’re An RA When…

I love this PDF guide to turning your RA skills into resume-friendly skills. “Stayed up until 4am breaking up a fight between two drunk girls and a parrot” gets turned into: “Maintained flexible hours while using conflict resolution and crisis management skills to mediate tense situations.”

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Is it a snow day if it means more schoolwork?

On the list of things I have learned many times but still do anyway, not doing homework on my bed is in the top ten. They say that you should really only use your bed for sleeping and sex, but when I really, really don’t want to do homework and know I have to, sometimes it can make me feel better to do it in/on my bed.

At this very moment, I’m on my bed, surrounded by homework, my iPad, the contents of my purse, and about half the clothes I’m planning on taking with me on my trip to Florida.

To be fair, while my Dad is painting his room, my room at home is filled with his bookcases and my desk is covered with debris that has migrated in here the two months since I was home last. My bed is pretty much the only space available to do homework.

Last night my brother took the bus from London and met me at school. Our plan was to spend the night out with my friends and then drive home. I leave for Florida Saturday afternoon and he leaves Sunday. Unfortunately, because of this crazy snow, we decided to drive home last night. I think my Dad was especially relieved, and so am I, when I look out my window and see this:

The snow may be a bit of a blessing in disguise, because I have so much homework to do that I’m afraid I wont have much of a vacation at all! I have to write a 15 page paper on an issue that’s faced during the recovery process, put together a manual for an Emergency Operations Centre, and figure out a narrative for an IMS-based exercise. On top of that are various smaller tasks for the groups I’m a part of! So all this snow is a really good excuse to stay in and get work done before Florida!

I have to admit, it’s also nice to be out of residence for a change! When I try to do homework in my room at school, it can be so hard to concentrate with people coming in to ask for guest passes, access to the housekeeping closet, and other concerns. It can also be very tempting to pay more attention to my RA duties (like bulletin boards, suite visits, log sheets, etc) when they seem so much easier than homework. I hope that reading week will be a much deserved break, and I can return to Res with my batteries re-charged.

Skittle hazards

This semester, our class is responsible for designing and controlling 2 functional exercise and one full scale exercises. Our clients include municipalities and private companies. My group is responsible for a county not too far from where our school is located, and I’m specifically in charge of creating the Master Scenerio Events List (or MSEL) for one municipality within the county.

We decided to simulate an ice storm, since a weather event can cover a large geographic area and allows us to have staggered activation times. It’s been fun coming up with different problems that could arise during the disaster, but its also been challenging because we want to make sure the scenario is realistic. We also have to make sure that all of our scripts co-ordinate somewhat with each other–since EMS and Social Services are county responsibilities, the events in my municipality (including prompts for Police and Fire) need to correspond to the EMS prompts in the county MSEL. We also want to make sure that the Emergency Control Group is kept busy for two hours, without being overwhelmed, and that everyone has something to do.

My biggest challenge has been figuring out where I can place my different events. Car accidents and downed trees are a simple prompt I can insert, but I need to make sure that the roads I’m targeting aren’t county roads. I also need to make sure that when I take out power lines, I’m taking them out on a road that actually has power lines!

To help me conceptualize, I’ve been sitting on my floor for the past couple of hours with my maps, trying to make sure my prompts make sense. I couldn’t find any post-its, so I improved–with skittles!

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Some of my residents came in and ate a car crash and a couple of downed trees, but fortunately I snapped these on my phone before all the hazards got eaten!

I’ve been noticing how much more time I spend on the ground in college than I ever did in university! I really like how I can physically see the things that I’m doing and get out and actually do them, rather than spend hours at my desk writing essays (although, don’t get me wrong–I do plenty of that too!)

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My MSEL still needs a bit more work. I’m not an expert at first response procedures, so we are consulting with some police officers as well as the CEMC’s of the municipalities we’re working with. At the moment, I have a fairly detailed Excel spreadsheet listing all of the prompts that will be called in from the Sim Cell on the day of the exercise. I’m definitely grateful for my summer job at Foreign Affairs last summer–even though all those hours struggling with Excel almost killed me, I feel like an expert now!

I’ve also got a floor meeting tonight in which I have to address some awkward issues–namely the use of derogatory terms and stolen food. Usually my floor is pretty good about showing up for these things, but I’m not sure how receptive they’ll be–especially this close to midterms.

In the meantime, though, I’m going to go snack on a traffic jam.

IMS slowly going crazy

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I’m currently trying to complete an assignment on the Incident Management System (IMS). In it, we have a scenario involving a tornado going through the main part of our fake city, and a list of resources that we need to organize under the Incident Commander using IMS principles to guide us. I’m having trouble getting my head around it, because it all breaks down into smaller groups—or builds up into larger ones, depending on how you look at it. I decided to try and create a visual representation to try and help me sort it out, and this is what it looked like:

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I really like IMS, and in fact I’m in the process of helping to design an exercise that utilizes IMS in the Emergency Operations Centre, but certain things about it just boggle my mind. I’m think once I get my head around it, I’ll more fully understand how it can be applied to situations beyond a site.

Casualty Sim and Therapy Dogs

Monday was the most fun I’ve had in a classroom in a long time. Don’t get me wrong—a lot of the things I do for this program are fun, but yesterday was exceptional.

Our program coordinator gave us the opportunity to attend a Casualty Simulation Course that was offered through the local fire department. Casualty Simulation is used during emergency exercises in order to make the situation more realistic for first responders. I didn’t really know what to expect out of the day, but when we arrived we were given a tool box full of what was essentially stage make-up, and spent the day simulating various maladies—cuts, burns, illness, shock…it was basically awesome.

Here’s some of my handiwork:

It was incredibly satisfying to spend the day doing something. As practical as this course is, there is still a fair share of sitting in a classroom learning theory. Either that or sitting in a classroom discussing our group projects. Being in a classroom making your friend look like he has a sucking chest wound wins every time.

Last night my fellow RA and I also organized a Therapy Dogs program for our residents. I was so happy with how successful it was. We had 8 dogs from the community come in and the residents all had a chance to come and sit with the dogs, to pet them and play with them.

It’s a scientific fact that simply petting a dog can lower your blood pressure, and Therapy Dogs are most commonly used in nursing homes and hospitals because they help relieve stress and make people happy. With midterms coming up, all of us are trying to come up with ways to keep the residents from getting overly stressed.

And lets be honest…we both wanted to play with puppies as a part of our job. In fact, the people who stayed from the start to the end of the program were all staff members.

We had paper outside of the room so that people could write down how the dogs made them feel. A lot of people said it made them miss their own dogs, but mostly it made everyone really happy. I definitely had a smile on my face the entire time.

One of the best things about this program was getting to speak to the people who volunteer their time to bring their dogs around. Many of them said it was good for their dogs to get to spend time with not only a large group, but with young people as well.

With this job, sometimes it can be hard to feel like you’re making any difference at all. On Monday night, I felt like I’d done a good thing by bringing those dogs in.

Emergency information and late night rounds

Today I’m struggling to complete an Emergency Information Plan for class on Thursday. The assignment is to write a plan that, in the event of an emergency, will act as a guide for the Emergency Information Officer, whose job it is to make sure that the media and the public have fast, accurate information about the emergency.

The assignment is difficult because I’m trying to incorporate social media into my plan. At this moment, not very many information plans include social media, but it’s become an increasingly important tool for emergency managers. It can also be incredibly dangerous because of the rapidity that incorrect information can be spread. I’m trying to create a policy that will prevent the spread of misinformation while utilizing the benefits of sites like Facebook and Twitter. Our instructors are always telling us not to reinvent the wheel. Most of this assignment is taking bits and pieces from other plans and altering them to fit our needs, but the lack of examples is  making this assignment challenging.

I’m also struggling because I was up until 4 last night on rounds. This was partly by my own choosing. Usually RAs are done at 1 on weekends while SRAs stay on call with security, but because so many RAs are applying for SRA next year, the SRA on call told us we could stay and help. And it was a busy night. A kegger off campus got shut down by the police, which meant that it migrated back to residence. We had to escort a number of people off campus and deal with some rather unruly guests. It sounds crazy that this actually constitutes a good night, but it was actually so much fun. It makes a real difference when you have a good relationship with your residents to begin with, as well as a strong team to back you up. I’m also pretty good at calming people down when they get worked up, which was nice to practice.

Disasters and Door Decs

Hi! Welcome to Disasters and Door Decs.

I started this blog as a way to document my experience as an Emergency Management student and resident assistant (RA). This year has been one of the most interesting and intense of my life, and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve experienced and lessons I’ve learned.

Plus, let’s just be honest, I like the sound of my own voice too much to keep it off the internet.

Some things that will likely come up in future posts:

-the agony and excitement of planning three major emergency exercises
-how sleep deprivation makes for interesting encounters with residents
-just how EM and ResLife overlap

Thanks for reading!