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Life Lines Articles - Disaster First Aid

The Haiti

by Victoria Chames, EMT, EDT

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Friday, January 15, 2010 from- http://enews.earthlink.net

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti (AP) "Dazed survivors wandered past dead bodies in rubble-strewn streets Wednesday, crying for loved ones... Hospitals, schools, the National Palace, and the main prison had collapsed. The capital's Roman Catholic archbishop was killed when his office and the main cathedral fell. The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission was missing in the ruins of the organization's multistory headquarters... people with cuts, broken bones and crushed ribs moaned under tent-like covers fashioned from bloody sheets...

The earthquake was on Tuesday, and now, on Friday, the injured, the dying, and the dead, are still lying in the streets waiting for help to come. The United States is sending a hospital ship, but it's not there yet. Help is coming from as far as China and the UK, but it's not there yet. The city of Port Au Prince has gotten some help from the UN peacekeeping Military base near by, but not nearly enough. Tens of thousands of people are injured, many severely. It takes time to move the help into action. Ironically, we have the technology to send pictures of the tragedy all over the world in a matter of minutes, but we do not have any way to get help to them that fast - unless help can come from the people who are already there.

BBC News: "Today three thousand bodies were buried in a common grave..." "As many as 50,000 are believed dead, and 3 million are injured or homeless."

Until very recently, those 3,000 bodies were people. They were human beings living their lives and pursuing happiness just like everybody does. While all those people were lying in the streets for 2 days waiting for help to come, all the other people were wandering helplessly, crying and praying. Any of these, or all of these, could have saved several hundred of those 3,000 people who were buried today, with just the simple knowledge and actions that are in the little Disaster First Aid book. Many of those lives could have been saved, if somebody who was there knew what to do and could do it quickly, instead of 72 hours later.

When I was first writing the DFA book, I asked some of my friends and colleagues to read it and give me some feedback on it. One of the E.R. doctors said:

"It's common-sense things that would save lives, but most people don't know them."

For the last six months or more I've been noticing a marked increase in the number of our website visits coming from India and the Middle East. We don't ship overseas, so I wanted to find a way to make Disaster First Aid available to them, and came up with the idea of a downloadable Ebook. I have spent the last seven days trying to figure out how to set up a PDF file that can be downloaded on any computer in the world. That was before the Haiti earthquake. Now I am trying even harder, and I am upset and frustrated that my lack of computer tech knowledge doesn't allow me to do it quickly. But I'm getting help from some user forums on the web, and we will get it done.

When it's done, it will be uploaded to the website: http://www.disasterfirstaid.com with a link to it on the front page of the site. When it goes up, hopefully in a few days, please check the site and download the book pages for yourself, and tell your friends to do it too.

"This course should be taught in every high school and middle school!"

This was a quote from one of my students, herself a teacher. She's right too - It is unthinkable that we don't do this for our kids and ourselves. We just smugly assume that nothing will ever happen here, or if it does, it won't be very bad. What a foolish assumption. Of course it will. We already know it will, here in California, it's just a matter of when. Seismologists and other scientists have already told us it could happen any day.

Right now only a few private schools teach Disaster First Aid, and most only provide this training for their teachers and administrators - not for the students. Most public schools (there are a few exceptions) even pre-recession when they had the money to do it, just didn't think it was important.

It would have been extremely important to those thousands of people who had to stand around helpless and crying while they watched their family members, friends, and children bleeding, going into shock, and gradually dying. Because they didn't know the simple techniques for how to control bleeding, or to prevent or alleviate shock. Things anyone can do, in minutes.

"In a medical crisis, time is often the deciding factor between life and death."

Here's a statistic for you. It's the statistic that got me into this, in the first place:

A study by the American College of Trauma Surgeons researched and classified 3 types of Trauma deaths:
Type-1: Death in minutes from overwhelming damage to body and vital organs.
Type-2: Death in several hours from severe bleeding or shock.
Type-3: Death in days or weeks from infection, organ failure, and shock.

"The study determined that of those who had a chance to live but died (groups 2 and 3) as many as 40% of them could have been saved by simple first aid measures, IF they received them early."

I wrote the book in 1996, and I've had the website since 2001. I've been doing this for 14 years and have not hit the "break-even-point" yet, let alone made any profit from my book or my course, but at least I know it has saved some lives. But not enough. Not nearly enough. I have been deeply discouraged, so many times, and it seems like "nobody cares." That is, they don't care until after it's too late.

It is now more than 72 hours since the disaster suddenly struck Haiti, and help is finally beginning to arrive in Port Au Prince, the capital city. But there are many other cities, and millions of people who still have had absolutely no help of any kind, and are not likely to get any, for days or weeks. Roads are destroyed, there is no water and no food. There are people dying now as you read this. I find this unbearably painful to know.

If you think it can't happen here, you're dead wrong. It WILL happen here. Many of our structures are built better, so some of them will not crumble and fall as fast or as totally as those in Haiti. But buildings and freeways and hospitals will collapse. (Did you know that almost all of the hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area are built within a mile or less from a major fault line?)

Do you know what to do when minutes make the difference between life and death, and 911 can't come for hours or days? Will that be you, or me, lying in the street this time? Or your girlfriend, boyfriend, your child, your grandchild? How can you not care?

Download the Disaster First Aid book pages PDF file and tell your neighbors to do it too. Ask the principal and the teachers at your kids school to think about teaching it there. Consider teaching it yourself, at your community college, your church, or your club. The PowerPoint presentation and hands-on practice take about 6 hours, for the whole course. There is a hardcopy text/handbook, and a complete Instructor Materials & How-To Kit for it. The Handbook as a PDF file can be downloaded from this website.

Click this link to download the book as a PFD file.

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