Being in command during an emergency

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Cpt_Jack
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Being in command during an emergency

Post by Cpt_Jack » Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:44 am

Salam

In my introduction to this forum I wrote about an incident where I dealt with a suspected heart attack and how no one else, including trained personnel around me, seemed to know what to do. I'm going to relate my story in a little more detail to underline what I see as the importance of making sure someone in charge once the proverbial hits the proverbial. Story time, I have a tendency to waffle a lot so I'll try to keep it short but apologize in advance. If you want, skip the first few paragraphs and go to the bit where I make a few points.

Some time back I took a temp job while studying in the Middle East at one of the regions major airports, DXB if you must know, to help cope with the summer rush. Since I have good English they stuck me by myself in tourist information near the exit of their new terminal.

One evening I noticed a commotion, a relatively old man in a wheel chair shouting loudly and in pain while being pushed by a member of staff with a female passenger panicking next to him. Spotting me at my desk she rushed up and explained. Long story short, the man was her father, he had a history of heart attacks and on decent to DXB he'd suffered severe chest pains. The aircrew radioed ahead for one of the airports doctors to be ready when they landed and rush the guy to the airport's airside clinic so he wouldn't have to go through passport control etc first

For whatever reason there was no doctor at the gate, just a person with a wheelchair and orders to get the guy out of the airport. I don't want to debate why, at best a communications failure (probable), at worst DXB just didn't want to have to deal with it (unlikely), but now he was with me and might be about to pop his clogs. Things were clearly out of hand and there was large crowd gathering and the nightly rush of passengers was starting to begin. I am a lowly temp staff who's job it is to hand out maps to tourists but no one was prepared to step up there and give this situation some leadership. Oooo, power rush!

I called the clinic, got them to trouble time a paramedic team down to me. While we were waiting, I got man to be pushed out of the way of everyone else since his cries of pain were causing quite a scene. People were gathering around now just staring and for the love of me I couldn't get them to back away. So I grabbed some bored customs officers and policemen who were waiting for their shift change and plopped them around to make a 'cordon' and keep the staring crowds away (hate starers, ask any first responder). At the same time, I called the local hospital to get them to send a cardiology ambulance down to pick the patient up. By the time the medics from the clinic arrived everything was clam and controlled, I even had enough time to sort out a taxi to take the daughter to the hospital with her father. Job done, power rush over, all I had to do was wave away the $50 the daughter tried to pay me and I could get back on shift.

I'm no hero, far from it, all I did was organize the people that were already there and sort out a situation, if I could do it *anyone can*. I was bossing around armed and uniformed police officers while wearing a blue shirt with 'May I help you?' printed on it for crying out loud! It just takes a little intuitive and a secret;

IF YOU GIVE ORDERS IN A LIFE OR DEATH SITUATION WHERE NO ONE ELSE IN 'AUTHORITY' IS AROUND, CHANCES ARE PEOPLE WILL LISTEN AND DO WHAT YOU SAY

I have found this a lot. I know we don't use the 's' word (livestock one, not the four letters) but sometimes people do act like a herd. In a natural disaster, this will happen a lot, people will mill around panicking and things will get worse. All it takes is a few words and you can get things moving again. I've compiled a short list of points, nothing major and I am no expert, just gathered from situations like the one I described.

- When someone is over their head, in a situation that is unfamiliar, they will do two things, panic or stand there. A few *may* try and figure something out but most of the time I find the old herd mentality kicks in. Certainly don't expect to see much leadership, you have to provide it.

- Providing leadership is easy, make yourself a figurehead and give orders. Nine times out of ten I find this works.

- A few people in pre set groups, e.g. friends, may refuse you and stick to some 'pre designated' leader in their little group. Target the leader, make them your 'lieutenant' and give them orders to give their group.

- Quickly identify skills, everyone has some even if it's just lifting and carrying. Identify other leaders as well, makes your job easier and you can delegate.

- Remember, you are now in charge. Don't take shite but also, don't be an asshole. And never order someone to do something you wouldn't do yourself.

- And don't get a power rush! Be prepared to be wrong and to take advice etc and to hand over control if needed.

It all boils down to human mentality I think, the 'herd' and not liking to be away from normal life, not liking to have to make decisions. In a disaster this just gets compounded many times over. I have plenty of other examples of thins happening, I'm sure you do to. So, debate, I know my points are quite crap and many of you know this far better than me, flame away ;-)

Jack

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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by Fletch » Fri Apr 15, 2011 3:58 am

I think it's more a lack of initiative than a group mentality type of thing, but it could just be me.
I can think back as far as school and remember times over the years where in a group situation people are too timid to take charge or become a 'devils advocate' for the group. I'm talking about wide ranging things here, from group work at school, to army cadets training weekends, problem solving team building events, and mild medical emergencies.

People sure do like to be led, and they really don't like to put themselves forward as a leader. I don't know why but I do know I'd rather be one of the people leading than one of the people being led - this doesn't mean I'd be one of those a-holes who refuse to be quiet and get things done, I'd be more than happy to follow someone I feel has the required knowledge or experience, but having knowledge about a subject doesn't necessarily mean you are capable of leading, and vice versa
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Einher
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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by Einher » Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:29 am

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полиция wrote:Полицейский инструктировал меня, что если убьеш грабителя у себя дома то надо вложить ему в руку нож или иное орудие преступления до того как пришли полицейские, иначе могут самого хозяина дома посадить за убийство.
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Cpt_Jack
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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by Cpt_Jack » Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:07 am

Fletch wrote:I think it's more a lack of initiative than a group mentality type of thing, but it could just be me.
I can think back as far as school and remember times over the years where in a group situation people are too timid to take charge or become a 'devils advocate' for the group. I'm talking about wide ranging things here, from group work at school, to army cadets training weekends, problem solving team building events, and mild medical emergencies.

People sure do like to be led, and they really don't like to put themselves forward as a leader. I don't know why but I do know I'd rather be one of the people leading than one of the people being led - this doesn't mean I'd be one of those a-holes who refuse to be quiet and get things done, I'd be more than happy to follow someone I feel has the required knowledge or experience, but having knowledge about a subject doesn't necessarily mean you are capable of leading, and vice versa
I think it can be both initiative and group mentality, didn't think to mention that so thanks. It's not that we can't solve problems, its that we don't seem to want to for whatever reason. Age has nothing to do with it, I saw a news piece the other day about child traffic police in Libya for example, nor does sex, looks, beliefs or suchlike. I think voice has a little to do with it, as in you have to keep it controlled as aircraft captains do, but that's about it. I'll admit I have a little training in the area thanks to cadets at school but even then, it's not much and since I joined the organization quite late as well as never mastering the subtleties of drill, vital in my unit since it was very much blanco and bullshit, I never made it far up the promotion ladder so I had few command opportunities (and lots of watching idiotic NCO's cock up when it came to anything other than drill). It's all just about stepping up and people like us really need to use that to our advantage if the worst happens since, in theory, we are ready for the crap.

I can also think of some bizarre situations but I used the one in the example since it shows me bossing around uniformed police who should really know better. And yes, while I will step up if I can I'm just as willing to let someone else do it. I find the a-holes who refuse 'orders' troublesome but I find the way to get around it is to give them some task that means they are bossing people around and get some sense of importance (or if you want to be an a-hole yourself, surrender 'command' and let them mess up).

All in all, I feel it's about reading people and seeing who has what skill then putting them to work. As you say, you don't need to have that skill yourself, you don't even have to understand it in any form, just identify it.

Maybe someone who knows about psychology can add something to all this, I find it interesting since, as I'm sure everyone knows, it happens so much and I think it is vital to surviving. Has anyone produced a pamphlet or similar on this topic? If not I'll consider doing so sometime when I can marshal my thoughts, one of the reasons for writing this. I think I'll stick Einherjrar's photo on the cover ;-)

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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by DannusMaximus » Sun Apr 17, 2011 1:31 pm

Cpt_Jack wrote: Providing leadership is easy, make yourself a figurehead and give orders. Nine times out of ten I find this works.
Concur with this, but with a 'but'...

Providing leadership IS easy, but you need to have a realistic view of what you can accomplish and what you are able to do. In many emergency situations, you're best bet is to get yourself and others out of the area and out of the way. In other emergencies, you can make things worse by doing something that you genuinely thought was a postive action. So know your knowledge limits and stick within them.

Also, be gentle when you're barking orders at people. There are certainly instances where I've had to tell people in no uncertain terms to get the fuck out of the way, or stop what they're doing, but that's fairly rare. Much more frequently you can give cordial directions to people and it will be well recieved. "Folks, I need everybody to move back to the sidwalk for me so we can keep this area clear, okay? Thank you." "Sir, can you pull over to the parking lot and block that entrance for me so more people don't drive in here? Thank you." "Ma'am, can you help me by holding your husband's head still while I put on this collar? Thanks so much. I appreciate it." Etc.

Introduce yourself to whoever you're trying to help, especially in a medical emergency, and state your credentials, if any. Get their permission to help, or the permission of somebody they're with, unless there is no way to do so. If you need something done, ask a specific person to help you with it - - just saying "somebody call 911!" means people might not do it. Saying "Sir, would YOU diall 911 for me and tell them what's happening?" will get better results.

Goes something like this:

Little old man: "My chest hurts!"
Dannus: "What's going on, sir?"
Little old man: "I'm afraid I'm having a heart attack!"
Dannus: "My name's Dannus, I'm an EMT, can I take a look at you and we'll try and figure out what's happening?"
Little old man: "Yes!'
Dannus: "Good deal! Hey helpful bystander #1, can you call 911 for and let them know what's happening and where we're at? Thanks! Alright, sir, let's have a look..."
Holmes: "You have arms, I suppose?
Watson: "Yes, I thought it as well to take them."
Holmes: "Most certainly! Keep your revolver near you night and day, and never relax your precautions..."

- The Hound of the Baskervilles

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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by Cpt_Jack » Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:32 pm

Agree again. It is no good shouting at people, if you're having to shout then you've lost already. Please and thank you costs nothing, nor does smiling (don't freak them out though). I got those cops to move in my scenario by being nice to them, something along the lines of 'Officer can you please help? These people are not paying attention to me, you have a uniform and a gun and they will listen to you!'. I didn't get it by screaming that they were wankers for just standing there while there was a situation, no matter how much I wanted to. Capone was wrong, a smile and kind words gets you further than a gun.

You also make a good point about giving your name and credentials to show you're not some random guy. You are just some random guy, but a random guy who knows what you're doing. That said like you say you must know your limits, no good doing something and hoping for the best, for one thing they can legally sue you and another it's going to be pretty shite to have someones disability or worse weighing on your mind all your life becuase you ballsed up.

Finally, the targeting specific persons thing. You are bang on, shouting out for *someone* to do something won't do it, the herd mentality once again kicks in to say 'some one else is going to do it, I'll stay and stare'.

Oh, and one more thing, it's a mistake I've seen made, never take someones clothes off without them asking and never do it with everyone staring. In the heat of the moment you might think it's a good idea to unbutton that ladies blouse but it will hit home once she starts screaming 'RAPE!!'. That has happened to someone I know and I believe they got in trouble with the police for it. Even if the casualty is unconscious at least state something like 'I'm going to unbutton her shirt so I can attach the defibrillator, could you get everyone away please?' so they know you're not doing it just to have a feel.

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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by lokifz1 » Mon Apr 18, 2011 3:40 pm

If people for whatever reason do not follow your leadership in everyday life, they will also probably not follow it in an emergency or in a collapse.
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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by MichaelM » Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:21 pm

lokifz1 wrote:If people for whatever reason do not follow your leadership in everyday life, they will also probably not follow it in an emergency or in a collapse.
I have to agree with this.

People are hierarchical social animals. Most of us don't really want to be in charge. When someone tries to take charge of us, we tend to look for certain traits. People with those traits are perceived of as being competent and worth following.

If you don't have those traits, people are way less likely to do what you tell them. Which is just too bad if you actually know what you're doing and mean to do well by everyone.

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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by Lynxian » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:43 pm

MichaelM wrote:
lokifz1 wrote:If people for whatever reason do not follow your leadership in everyday life, they will also probably not follow it in an emergency or in a collapse.
I have to agree with this.

People are hierarchical social animals. Most of us don't really want to be in charge. When someone tries to take charge of us, we tend to look for certain traits. People with those traits are perceived of as being competent and worth following.

If you don't have those traits, people are way less likely to do what you tell them. Which is just too bad if you actually know what you're doing and mean to do well by everyone.
Good point. But taking control during a contingency in a firm and resolute manner while demonstrating calmness and authority will pretty much be the traits people look for in leadership. So unless you step forward stammering 'Umm, yeah, I think I will, uhm, I will now try to, I think, eh, perhaps I could...', you're probably going to get good results. (Also, if you were to step forward with such a response would, to me, be quite impossible; such behaviour is herd behaviour. Stepping forward means you're breaking with such behaviour and it should be impossible for you to be so, and come across as, insecure.)
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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by jakesway » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:54 pm

You're absolutely right, most people dont know what to do and those who do often dont know how to stand up and bark orders. I think one the first things to do after you establish yourself as the.. alpha male lol, (this is most easily accomplished I think by using a big boombing voice, stand on a desk and say 'LISTEN UP! ') is to find people in the group who are knowledgeable, and delegate important tasks to them.

It's important to use that booming voice. There's gonna be tons of people who are gonna go rambling on and try to be important when really all they are doing is being a tool, most of them will shut up when they hear your voice.

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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by zerbieB » Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:50 pm

Being in command during an emergency is a great responsibility. But, it is overwhelming and I feel relieved when a patient survive of I saved someone. :)

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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by polliedes » Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:55 am

- When someone is over their head, in a situation that is unfamiliar, they will do two things, panic or stand there. A few *may* try and figure something out but most of the time I find the old herd mentality kicks in. Certainly don't expect to see much leadership, you have to provide it.

- Providing leadership is easy, make yourself a figurehead and give orders. Nine times out of ten I find this works.

- A few people in pre set groups, e.g. friends, may refuse you and stick to some 'pre designated' leader in their little group. Target the leader, make them your 'lieutenant' and give them orders to give their group.

- Quickly identify skills, everyone has some even if it's just lifting and carrying. Identify other leaders as well, makes your job easier and you can delegate.

- Remember, you are now in charge. Don't take shite but also, don't be an asshole. And never order someone to do something you wouldn't do yourself.

- And don't get a power rush! Be prepared to be wrong and to take advice etc and to hand over control if needed.
Luckily, I have never had to take charge in a life or death scenario, but I have had many, many times where I have taken charge at work and I agree completely with this list.
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Re: Being in command during an emergency

Post by thorian » Fri Apr 29, 2011 2:45 pm

I got the displeasure of being the IC of a moderate house fire once. All I can say is that it is like herding cats and keeping track of add riddled children. It helps to be able to have someone that can just handle writing down what is going on.

According to NIMS a person can only effectively manage 5 people.
VOL FF 1 & 2, EMT-B, Hazmat Ops, Vehicle Extrication Technician, High angle rescue technician, and that is just the hobby...

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