The First Thing to Remember is to Run NOT

Posted: July 26, 2005 in News and politics
 

Since the London bombings this month of July, 2005, I have given some thought to just what I would do if there appeared to be an imminent bombing on the ferry or other public transportation vehicle on which I was riding.

My thoughts go back to when I was on a fire-fighting crew in the mountains of Idaho. The actual fire was a safe distance from us, but we could see it. Suddenly, the fire topped out. This refers to the fire igniting the tops of trees and traveling from one to the other in rapid succession. These can travel at well over 40 miles-per-hour. I have no idea how fast they’ve been estimated.

I panicked and started running. An experienced fire-fighter yelled one word to me that caused me to halt without running another step. The word was, simply, “stop.”

He explained that there is no one in the world who could outrun a fire that was topping out. Of course, with that explanation I had no problem understanding the right response to that emergency.

Years later, during drills on one of the submarines I was serving, I conducted myself in such a manner that one of the officers observing submitted my name as a possible observer in a drill. I little self-deprecating humor here: cooler heads prevailed.  

A couple of years ago a rather sever earth-quake hit Seattle and other communities around Puget Sound, including Bremerton. As the building shook, I saw people getting into doorways. My boss made the mistake of running out of the building. He didn’t sustain any injuries but the critique after the quake yielded the information that running out of the building is the wrong thing to do. In fact standing in a doorway has been discounted by some “experts” as the safest place to be in an earthquake. But, let’s not linger on that detail.

Maybe it’s my age and a little wisdom in an emergency that has become a part of me. I saw a few items fall from a high shelf in the mail room but I immediately pulled my cell phone out of its holster and speed-dialed home. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two since the quake started. My wife, by that time, was out front of our house. I asked her if everything and everybody was safe. In a quavering voice, she said there was no damage to our home or its contents, and that she was ok; but, the neighbor’s chimney was partly collapsed.

Can we ponder and think about emergencies before they happen and prepare ourselves for them? I can not be sure of that. Do drills prepare sailors at sea or soldiers on the battle-field? A large body of evidence would support the wisdom of drills. I do not know how much drilling today’s Navy does. Some movies have been made making a joke out of emergency situations. I have no problem with making light of situations that would normally cause many of us to freeze up. To the extent that it might make us believe, mistakenly, that thinking about emergencies or, heaven forbid, conduct discussions or drills, are activities that are not worthwhile; then we should take stock and re-orientate ourselves. Those who conduct drills on Navy ships use damage control manuals full of real-life events. These events and their results provide valuable information (data) for conducting drills.

The problem with that is we can not use any events that have happened in this country. 9/11 is not much good to evaluate risks on public transportation. I would be amazed if our public officials, who’s responsibility it is to formulate realistic scenarios and, possibly, drills don’t do a careful and detailed study of what happened – and is happening in the British public transportation.

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