Study – Interorganizational Coordination and a Vulnerable Population during Hurricane Irma in 2017: A Qualitative Case Study on Joint Efforts for Undocumented Immigrant Disaster Safety

Interorganizational Coordination and a Vulnerable Population during Hurricane Irma in 2017: A Qualitative Case Study on Joint Efforts for Undocumented Immigrant Disaster Safety

Source:University of Colorado at Boulder, Natural Hazards Center

Date Published: 2018

Format: Text

Annotation: This qualitative case study aims to gain a greater understanding of the interorganizational coordination that assisted undocumented immigrants in South Apopka, Florida, during and immediately after Hurricane Irma in 2017. It discusses the study’s central themes and suggests policy strategies to encourage community coordination to protect the lives of vulnerable people from institutional blindness in disasters.


Study – Building Back Better: Understanding How Health Considerations Are Incorporated into Local Post-Disaster Recovery Implementation

Building Back Better: Understanding How Health Considerations Are Incorporated into Local Post-Disaster Recovery Implementation

Source:University of Colorado at Boulder, Natural Hazards Center

Date Published: 2018

Format: Text

Annotation: This study examines the extent to which communities are aiming to build resilience during the disaster recovery process. Researchers conducted key informant interviews with local health departments and one office of emergency management to determine if and how their communities are incorporating public health considerations into the visioning, planning, implementation, and assessment phases of disaster recovery.


Study – ¡Puerto Rico Se Levanta!: Hurricane María and Narratives of Struggle, Resilience, and Migration

¡Puerto Rico Se Levanta!: Hurricane María and Narratives of Struggle, Resilience, and Migration

Source:University of Colorado at Boulder, Natural Hazards Center

Date Published: 3/2018

Format: Text

Annotation: This study draws on resiliency and migration models to analyze the experiences of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane María. The research examines how respondents and their families experienced Hurricane María and relief efforts, the survival strategies they deployed after the storm, their migration decision-making and journeys to Florida, and their interpretations of governmental response to the hurricane.


Report – Social Vulnerability and the Role of Puerto Rico’s Healthcare Workers After Hurricane Maria

Social Vulnerability and the Role of Puerto Rico’s Healthcare Workers After Hurricane Maria

Source:University of Colorado at Boulder, Natural Hazards Center

Date Published: 6/2018

Format: Text

Annotation: This report summarizes a study that used interview and observation data with healthcare workers across Puerto Rico to better understand what kind of impacts Hurricane Maria had on people’s health, and who was most impacted. It sought to understand how healthcare workers responded to the crisis in order to reach communities in need. It highlights how and why people with chronic health conditions, those who were economically disadvantaged, rural populations, and older populations were particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of the storm and massive, extended disruptions to key infrastructure.


BC – RCMP training officers to understand autism

Advocates have long known people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have regular exchanges with police. And now awareness training is helping some RCMP officers better recognize and help those with autism.

In 2017, Lunenburg County RCMP in Nova Scotia received a spike in autism-related calls. Many officers’ questions went to now-retired Cst. Rod Francis. He has first-hand experience with autism because his teenage son lives with the condition.

“I’m very familiar with ASD and how to deal with it,” says Francis, who in late 2017 helped organize ASD training sessions for colleagues.

He saw the benefit of those efforts months later at a local school, where a colleague helped an autistic teenager.

“He just wasn’t getting his own way and he was upset,” says Francis, who added the officer was calm, gave the teen lots of space and was able to get him to sit at his own desk, which helped diffuse the situation.

First step is awareness

The training was also sparked by a lack of autism awareness.

“A lot of the time, as police officers, when we get a call, the information we get is that it’s a 13-year-old at home out of control. We may not be aware that they have ASD. As a result, we’re going in there with a high-risk assessment that doesn’t help,” says Francis.

A 2017 study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and York University found that while almost half of interactions with police were calming, nearly one-third had the opposite outcome.

Yona Lunsky, who has extensively studied autism and co-authored the study, says police and other first responders need to recognize the challenges involved.

“There are so many autisms,” says Lunsky, a senior CAMH scientist.

ASD is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how those with autism communicate and relate to other people, and how they experience the world.

Lunsky says autism can, among other things, be severe or mild, it may be diagnosed very early on in life or it may not be diagnosed until adulthood. It may or may not be associated with an intellectual disability. As well, difficulties with social communication may be subtle or a person may not be able to verbally communicate at all.

Lunsky also notes autistic individuals are more likely to be victims of crime.

“So police have to be aware of that too and have the same sensitivities when supporting them,” she says.

Reaching out

In British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, RCMP S/Sgt. Major Stephen Blair Hurst has helped train hundreds of officers in ASD awareness with the support of the Pacific Autism Family Network.

“We discuss scenarios you may encounter and behaviours,” says Hurst, who describes a fictitious call for service involving a young man with ASD in a parkade who’s wearing a hoodie, carrying a backpack and looking into car windows.

He says when police arrive and identify themselves, the individual may ignore them. “The officers could interpret this as someone who may be attempting to break into vehicles or as a suspicious male who is avoiding contact with police,” he says.

But, he adds, the scene could also be a non-verbal male with ASD who has sensory issues.

“His communication style and ability may be one where he’s not comfortable making eye contact and he may be non-verbal,” says Hurst. “We don’t expect our members to make a diagnosis. But the more we know about ASD indicators and the behaviours, the better it’s going to be, and awareness is key.”

Lunsky, who holds a PhD in clinical psychology, says it’s essential police reach out to the autism community for solutions.

“It’s really important to get to know people to understand their autism and to know them when they’re not in crisis,” she says.

Lunsky says there’s always an opportunity for first responders to learn more about ASD.

“Every time people with autism have a bad experience, it affects how they deal with police the next time,” she says. “Even after there’s an encounter, police still have an opportunity to say: How can we do better? What support can we give you next time?”

NZ – Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan version 2.0 released

The Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan (WENIRP) has been developed to assist emergency managers, and responding agencies, to respond effectively to this complex emergency scenario. It is a Supporting Plan to the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan 2015 (National CDEM Plan 2015), and builds on the arrangements in the National CDEM Plan 2015.

Find more information here: Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan

QLD – Far North prepares for wet weather

Police are urging the North Queensland community to work with emergency services in anticipation of a large amount of rain due to hit the area in the next week.

With the possibility of significant rainfalls forecast in the coming week, Far North Queensland emergency services are seeking the cooperation of motorists and residents so everyone stays safe.

Queensland Police Chief Superintendent and Far North District Disaster Coordinator Brian Huxley is asking motorists to be mindful of the significant rainfall already received across the region and that there is plenty more to come.

“We have already had reports of a vehicle being stuck in flood waters on a major road and emergency services are currently looking for a woman believed to be lost near a flood creek,’ he said.

‘The last thing we police want to do is to have to advise family members that their loved one has been lost whilst attempting to drive through flooded waters or swimming in flood rivers, creeks or causeway’.

Police would also like parents to be mindful and talk to their children of the temptations of playing or swimming in flooded areas during the holidays and remind them how dangerous it is.

NT – Thanking our frontline workers

The Minister for Health has thanked frontline workers for their dedication ahead of New Year’s celebrations.

Minister for Health Natasha Fyles said from police officers to hospital staff, hundreds of people have given up Christmas and New Year’s celebrations with their families to ensure Territorians can be safe this holiday season.

“Fire and Ambulance Crews and the staff at our six Territory hospital will also work around the clock to ensure Territorians can access the services they need.

“I want to thank the many Territorians who are giving up their celebrations to ensure Territorians can have a safe New Years,” she said.

Territory Health Professionals are on stand-by but say they hope Territorians won’t be spending their New Years in hospital.

RDH Director of Emergency Medicine, Dr Didier Palmer said every year around New Year’s we see even more patients attend our EDs with alcohol-related trauma.

“Broken limbs, broken faces, internal injuries and the psychological trauma which lasts long after physical healing.

“We see every day and more so over the New Year, the devastating impact this has on families and loved ones,” he said.

Operations Manager of St John Ambulance NT, Craig Garraway is urging Territorians to stay safe on the roads and while out and about over NYE.

“Over the festive season St John Ambulance paramedics see an increase in presentations from patients suffering from injuries and illnesses caused by the effects of the excessive consumption of alcohol.  Unfortunately far too often our paramedics are faced with aggression and abuse from those who are impacted by the effects of alcohol. 

“Our paramedics are out there to do a job, to treat the injured, the sick and the suffering and it is important for paramedics to be able to do their job uninterrupted and in a safe environment.

“Look after each other, always call triple zero 000 in an emergency and remember that we are out there working to help you so please let us do our jobs safely.”

There are many activities across the Northern Territory over the holiday season to enjoy and Territorians are being urged to ensure they plan for a safe celebration.

Top End make the most of free buses running throughout the night on New Year’s Eve to ferry people to and from celebrations.

Perspectives – Professional Indifference

I wrote this a while back… and then today I heard about a very similar situation so I thought I would re-post:

Last week, a good friend of ours – we’ll call her Sally – was enjoying ice cream with her daughter and a friend. Suddenly and somehow, right on the sidewalk in front of them, a pedestrian was struck by a city bus.

Armed with courage, a mother’s wisdom, and excellent first aid skills Sally immediately moved to help. She told her 13-year-old daughter to stay put because she wasn’t quite sure just how badly the pedestrian had been injured.

That was the first of several good moves she made. The pedestrian was laying prone on the ground bleeding profusely from her nose and mouth. The impact had been powerful and she had lost some of her teeth between first being struck and then slamming into the concrete. She was confused and struggling to make sense of her new reality.

Sally quickly took control of the situation and after ensuring the pedestrian – a twentysomething-year-old woman – didn’t move and that another bystander was calling 911, began a calming conversation. Sally told us that when the pedestrian was hesitant to respond, Sally told her a bit about herself. “I’m a mom. I love dogs…” She knew that the sound of her voice and the touch of her hand would be vitally important to this young woman, alone and seriously injured.

The pedestrian made an attempt to sit up and collapsed back onto the ground. Sally told her it was very important she lay still on her side until the first responders and paramedics could get there.

And then she returned to the conversation while trying to keep her knees out of the awful puddles of blood. Sally talked to the young woman while chaos reigned all around them – a crowd of onlookers swelled, motorists slowed or honked or both as traffic came to a standstill in the busy intersection, the sounds of sirens inbound from different directions.

Another would-be rescuer decided that the young woman was talking too much and told Sally she should be quiet. Sally shoo’d him away knowing instinctively that her thread of calming words were providing a tiny tether to the world that was just prior to the crash. Sally told us that if, “God forbid I was in the same situation, I’d want someone there to hold my hand and talk to me just so I’d know I was still alive.”

In the midst of her trauma and confusion, the woman was very concerned about her mother and repeatedly told Sally her mom would be waiting for her at work and could someone please let her mom know what had happened. Even if the young woman wasn’t exactly clear on what happened herself. Sally promised she’d ensure someone would get word to her mom.

And then the firefighter first responders and the police arrived.

While they were efficient and professional, the firefighters and the police officers ran up a caring deficit when it came to dealing with Sally. For reasons known only to themselves, they decided to ignore her presence, not pay attention to the extensive history she was able to compile, not listen to her description of what had happened, and most importantly – not treat her with the respect, appreciation, and gratitude she truly deserved.

Sally tried to communicate the importance of finding the victim’s mother and advising her of the situation. She had to hound a police officer until the officer finally tuned-in and actually listened to the words being spoken – and realized that yes, this was important enough for her to take action. The police officers were professional but almost aloof in their dealings with Sally.

And with their professional indifference, they made an already very traumatic situation much worse. No stranger to the realities of firefighting and EMS – her husband is on the job – Sally was left to question all she had done. Had she made the right moves going to help? What happened to the young woman? What if….?

If we want people to step forward and lend a hand, we need to be willing to treat bystander rescuers as if they are members of our own team. We need to embrace them and thank them for extending the continuum of care from our stations all the way to our sidewalks. We need to let them know we appreciate their willingness to become involved.

We need to ensure they are okay – physically and psychologically. They may not have the support scaffolding necessary to deal with the emotional fallout that comes with temporarily stepping into our shoes – or boots – even for just a few crucial moments.

And if we want them to learn, improve their knowledge and techniques we need to be willing to provide debriefings, follow-ups and opportunities to update their skills. We might even consider rewarding them with first aid kits and special workshops designed to allow them to become ambassadors within their own networks of family, friends & colleagues.

In a world filled with frequent flyer points, referral rewards and customer affinity programs, is anyone going to tell me there isn’t anything we can do to better care for those amongst us who are ready and willing to step forward and lend a caring hand when a fellow human needs it most?

Let’s get it done.

Be well. Practice big medicine.