Typically communities call in firefighters and trained disaster responders that may include FEMA, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the local national guard -- but what if the disaster is too big, too widespread? Your neighborhood might be days away from any firefighters or disaster responders showing up, if they show up at all. A number of them may have even been killed.
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You're going to have less tools to work with than a disaster responder team. Not being trained, you may face more dangers as well.
Move cautiously. Understand that cave-ins and collapses are possible. Pay careful attention to the debris as you move debris around. Put some gloves on -- protect your hands -- if you're going to be digging through debris this will keep you from cutting your hands up and you'll be able to move faster (work gloves are recommended for every survival kit and bug out bag).
Be sure not to dig through the debris too fast-- remember, cave-ins and collapses are possible when debris is being removed from a disaster site, such as a home or building, store, or even a church.
Test questionable areas before moving each piece of debris. Form a human chain -- pick up a piece of rubble or wood (or glass) and hand it to the person behind you (each of you watch for nails, glass, sharp or jagged sides, chemicals, etc). You may be digging your way into a home -- work as a team, moving the collapsed home piece by piece.
Call out -- and listen carefully for anyone who may be inside. Call out repeatedly. Put your ear down to the debris -- a person inside could be shouting from underneath the rubble -- the sound-waves just might carry up through the debris, but you'd never know without your ear down to the rubble. Be quiet. Listen.
Be able to build a make-shift stretcher (many instructions online).
Be assertive -- this is not the time to show worry or uncertainty. Be certain of your actions. Be able to motivate people who are shocked, dazed, even saddened and grieving over the disaster that has taken place. Be sympathetic also -- but urge them to help and look for the wounded all the same. Get them to focus on saving others rather than the painful loss they may have just endured.
Remember the hit show Lost on ABC? Notice how people naturally looked and respected the doctor. In the initial show when the Oceanic commercial airliner (Flight 815) broke apart and crashed on the island, he went into action as soon as he realized what was going on. He demonstrated care for others; the fact that he was also a doctor made people believe that he would know how to handle the situation. He became their leader -- and the group benefited many times from his leadership skills.
What about you? You don't have to be a doctor or surgeon to have leadership skills. You just have to know how to handle situations. People will see this and you can win their support.
Demonstrate care. Look like you know how to handle things (better yet, know how to handle things). Keep a level head. Demonstrate strength (not physical strength, I'm talking about emotional strength -- but physical strength is good also -- they can go hand in hand).
When other people are "lost" and just dazed, looking around, completely overwhelmed -- this is the exact time that you can be decisive -- assist the wounded, find and hand out blankets, find drinking water, look for first aid materials, call out to people to help, introduce yourself, motivate the group.
Be worthy of respect and maintain that worthiness -- don't swear, don't scream out orders, treat others with kindness, never contempt. Continue to do so day after day. Persevere even through trying events and conflicts.
Be committed to getting the job done.. You are not a person who knows defeat. You keep going and going and going.
Right now they are beaten and defeated by the disaster. Hope will help them survive this. Re-newed energy will get them back on their feet. So be a leader -- show that you care for the wounded and those that have suffered painful loss.
Also, show that you know a thing or two about disaster response and emergency first aid (including CPR). In fact today consider taking a class put on by your county or city government's disaster response team, American Red Cross, or even FEMA. Just because you read a few articles on disaster response doesn't mean you're prepared to administer emergency first aid. I've taken a class on disaster response (put on by my county concerning floods) and also a class on food preparation after a disaster (put on by the Salvation Army) -- but both of these classes were 3-4 years ago. I could easily benefit from taking a few more classes today -- what about you?
If you suspect someone is alive and trapped under rubble or debris, organize a human chain and begin the cautious process of debris removal -- coach the team on careful and thoughtful movements. The last thing you want to do is cause a collapse on yourselves or on the victims below you're digging for.
Keep in mind -- just because someone is buried under rubble doesn't mean they're dead or suffocated. Often a building collapse creates small spaces when walls, floors, furniture, and appliances fall on each other, and sometimes people find themselves pinned and able to breathe, rather than being crushed.
As the wounded are rescued assign a handful of people to care for and treat them while you and others continue searching for survivors.
1.) Call a meeting -- decide to build a shelter out of nearby materials.
2.) Layout a plan for getting along and working as a team. "We need to show each other LOVE and RESPECT right now... That's how we'll keep the peace. That's how we'll work together. That's how we'll survive this and be the best care givers to the injured."
3.) Send out a team of scavengers ... one team will look for food. Another team will look for clothing and blankets. Another team will scavenge building materials and tarp (to protect from rain, wind, the weather).
Another team will look for a source of water and then the means to boil it and make it safe for drinking and cleaning wounds.
Another team will look for firewood and fire-starting materials, including gasoline (find a wrecked car, crawl underneath and poke a hole in the gas tank with whatever tools you can find that will do the job - that's a great way to get fuel for lighting a fire; put a container underneath it and collect the fuel as it pours out; you may need multiple containers.).
What might take one person several hours or even days can be accomplished in a shorter amount of time.
Being able to locate water, food, blankets, clothing, build a shelter, gather fire making materials, and find things like medicine or even weapons can happen relatively quickly.
There is also safety in numbers -- as the days pass and lawlessness becomes evident a team of survivors can defend themselves a lot easier than just one person on their own.
A team can also blaze trails, clear brush, plant seeds or transplant crops, build housing, hunt for food, fish, dig traps, dig shelters, dig tunnels.
A team can carry heavy objects.
Someone else may know how to pilot an airplane or launch a sailboat or even a hot air balloon (we've got an upcoming article on that topic ... it turns out that one of the greatest escapes from the Nazis in World War II Germany turned out to be a homemade hot air balloon launched in the late evening hours, when it wouldn't be spotted from the ground -- two men made it to safety in this homemade hot air balloon -- we're going to teach you how they did it (be sure to keep an eye out for our newsletter in your email inbox so you know when we post this article).
That first night following the disaster sit down with the group and start talking about what each person knows -- as topics are discussed consider ways that a specific knowledge or skill can best help the group. Determine what your strengths are and then see if you can develop a group survival strategy around those strengths.
You may be surprised at just what all is possible to accomplish working as a team.