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A culture of efficacy

His supreme blogness, Glenn Reynolds, likes to put up posts about disaster preparedness and pretty much anything that encourages people to figure out for themselves how to deal with emergencies, protect themselves from danger and protect their loved ones or indeed strangers out of simple human generosity. Being a broadly libertarian character, Reynolds defends the use of firearms in self defence but there is much more to it than that, including knowing about first aid, dealing with sudden loss of electric power, drinking water, and so on (I would be interested to know how many commenters here have studied first aid or rescuing people in difficult situations, like from drowning).

Glenn has a round-up of links here which is pretty good. I could not help notice the contrast between Reynolds’ very American can-do attitude with the sort of pathetic, rule-obsessed attitude demonstrated by so-called police officers who failed to act, at least with great urgency, to prevent the drowning of a young lad.

When I hear people talk about the erosion of civil society under the impact of officialdom, it is tragedies like this recent story that demonstrate what I mean.

38 comments to A culture of efficacy

  • I would be interested to know how many commenters here have studied first aid or rescuing people in difficult situations, like from drowning

    I have not – but I agree that it is something I (and like-minded people) should take the time to learn. If we are serious about replacing the nanny state with a more voluntary form of association, it can only be to the good that we do things like volunteer for charity, arm ourselves, and get at least basic training in first aid and survival skills.

    Thanks for the kick in the pants. I am a graduate student; there should be courses in survivalist skills available somewhere on campus that I can take advantage of.

  • Libertarian? Er, right.

    A libertarian who hasn’t voted libertarian since 2000, has voted GOP in every election since, who called libertarian Ron Paul “clueless” and whose favorite hobby is engaging in partisan attacks on progressives and Democrats.

    Anyone who calls Reynolds a “libertarian” is seriously not paying attention.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Blue Texan, he seems pretty much on the sensible side of the fence on most issues to me; of course, he supported overthrowing Saddam, which of course is unforgivable for a certain class of ideological purist; but this thread is not about that, so let’s leave it at that, please.

  • Hyksos

    Many libertarians find the LP hopeless. You make not like that but it is a fact. Anyone who wants a great deal less state and is a capitalist is a libertarian and that means Reynolds is a libertarian.

  • Jacob

    who called libertarian Ron Paul “clueless”

    Clueless about foreign affairs and security. About right.

  • I grew up in rural central/west Texas during the 70′s in an environment in which people immediately at the scene of an emergency had to do everything or somebody would die. Official help was a good half-hour away assuming they could find you in the first place.

    I grew up culturally educated in preparing for and reacting to emergencies. I learned to use firearms by the age of eight. I got first aid certification from the Boy Scouts at the age of 13. We routinely carried tools (including firearms) in our vehicles. We planned for and managed our own personal safety in regards to threats from nature or malevolent humans. We considered the authorities as people who came in to clean up the mess after all the excitement was over.

    Even when the authorities do arrive they are often non-professionals who have donned a hat for the day. In small towns (under 5,000) most emergency services such as fire fighting are still staffed by community volunteers.

    I have long noted a fundamental difference in attitude and habit between those who grew up in rural areas far from benevolent authority and those who grew up in controlled urban areas. People from urban areas pretty much ignore their physical and natural environment. They pause much longer before taking action in an emergency as compared to people from rural areas. I think growing up in an environment wherein some authority will arrive and act has conditioned them to wait for someone else to act first.

  • guy herbert

    … pathetic, rule-obsessed…

    They weren’t police officers, Jonathan. They were PCSOs – AKA Blunkett’s Brownshirts – and police blogs, as opposed to the official line, are uniformly scathing.

  • Whether or not one thinks Reynolds is “sensible” isn’t the point. He’s not a libertarian, he’s a Bush Republican.

    The libertarian Cato Institute’s scathing rebuke of Bush’s Constitutional excesses went completely ignored by Reynolds, as does Paul’s candidacy.

    And his non-stop, cartoonish partisan attacks on Democrats and progressives also aren’t very libertarian.

    BTW, the majority of America thinks it was a mistake to invade Iraq.

  • The puppy blender encourages people to take responsibility in emergency situations rather than depending upon the government. That is in line with libertarian philosophy and is the point raised in this post.

    The horse you are beating may well be alive, but this isn’t the place to beat it.

  • Chris F

    I would be interested to know how many commenters here have studied first aid or rescuing people in difficult situations, like from drowning

    Although not a commenter, I am a regular reader. I have advanced first aid and rescue diver qualifications, albeit a little rusty, from various jobs I had when younger and have not hesitated to use them when circumstances required.

    I agree with Shannon regarding the pause before taking action in the urban envirinment, but it has nothing to do with:

    growing up in an environment wherein some authority will arrive and act has conditioned them to wait for someone else to act first.

    My delay in helping a stranger in the street or elsewhere comes more from fear of lawsuits from those requiring the help or their families if they object to the help given. I will gladly and quickly help those that I know, but will will generally shy away from strangers, unless they request it and others are present.

    Would I have jumped in to save the kid in lake that’s been in the UK news recently? I think so.
    Would I intervene if I saw a gang of kids beating up/stabbing someone in the street? Probably not, as the law is stacked against me if I hurt one of the gang while trying to help their victim.

  • phwest

    I was first aid trained in scouts, Red Cross lifesaving trained in High School, and Red Cross certified in First Aid and CPR as an adult (currently lapsed).

    One of the more interesting incidents in my life was being first on an accident scene in upstate Pennsylvania. 2 parents, three kids in turtled SUV (wet road), mom-freaked, kids screaming , but fortunately no serious injuries. Within five minutes we had two people directing traffic around the accident, flares out, and everyone out of the car waiting for the Emergency team to get there. In that time period, every passing car stopped and offered to help. As Shannon noted above, the fact that this was a rural location played a role in that (although I am a lifetime suburbanite) – when it’s clear there is an emergency and no one else is there, people do tend to stop and help.

  • Pa Annoyed

    When we’ve discussed this sort of thing in the past, some of the more hardcore Libertarians have told me that they have no obligation to come to the aid of others. If my house was burning down, they would bear no responsibility unless it was them that set fire to it in the first place. The position seemed to be that people can volunteer to assist, and that this is an arguably virtuous thing to do, but they are under no duty to help anyone unless they want to.
    Presumably, that principle applies to community support officers too.

    It’s not a position I agree with, but I thought I’d throw it into the discussion. Knowing how to rescue people is a good thing, but if it so happens that you don’t know what to do, you can sometimes make things worse by wading in regardless – you can end up in trouble yourself. Didn’t the boy who drowned do precisely that? What would we have said of a PCSO who jumped in and wound up needing to be rescued himself, to the possible detriment of the other people being rescued? Brave and noble, yes, but ultimately not very sensible. I would never criticise someone who tried anyway, but the rule is not totally without merit. The fault is the government’s in not giving these people the appropriate training.

    BTW, the majority of America thinks it would be a mistake to vote Libertarian, judging by the LP’s typical poll results. Since when are we interested in democracy?

  • Matt

    My better half, and a number of my acquaintances are police officers either current or retired and every single one of them hates PCSOs. They have little training and basically no powers other than being a warm body on a scene that can be called upon to act as a human CCTV camera. Their association with the police (who do an outstanding job for the most part) weakens public perception of genuine law enforcement.

    As someone who spends an (unhealthy) amount of time reading US based survival and hunting (bow hunting is my preferred choice) I despair the attitude of this declining nation and its growing governmental reliance.

  • Dave

    I think the issue here is that by the time the fake cops arrived the kid was no where to be seen. Given that circumstance even with life saving training I’d not have gone into the water, it’s a common cause of death – as it was in this circumstance. The kid who died was trying to help his sister.

    If the kid had been visable, or I’d seen where he was, then certainly. At least in a lake. If he’d (for example) been swept out to sea by a wave, then probably not because I know that I couldn’t get either of us out.

    The real problem is that the fake cops wouldn’t have done anything if they had been able to see the kid. Without the right training in water rescue and recovery that’s a dangerous situation to be in. The rules I was taught were to avoid going into the water in the first place – reach, throw and then jump. When in the water you need to know how to subdue people who are panicking and how to get an unconscious person out of water.

    Even then you may well be too late. I know of one swimming teacher who pulled a child out of a pool and started CPR but was unable to save them, even after a few minutes on the bottom.

  • Blue Texan

    Editor’s note: to quote what Johnathan Pearce politely said earlier:

    “but this thread is not about that, so let’s leave it at that, please.”

    …but as you cannot take a polite hint, comment deleted.

  • well, you mentioned his alleged libertarianism, so getting all huffy at a commenter for challenging it is pretty weak.

    There’s nothing about self-defense or first aid that has overlaps political philosophy, or so I would hope. I have a hard time imagining someone walking by a burning house with people needing assistance and being able to defend their inaction on philosophical grounds (“no, your honor, as I didn’t set the fire, I was under no obligation to rescue anyone or assistance in any way.”).

    Any time spent in the Scouts or taking a Red Cross class would get you what you needed, assuming you are enough about strangers to bother. I’m starting to think that “libertarian” is another word for “anti-social narcissist.”

    Do people really work all this out before they venture forth, this idea that no one deserves help unless you personally put them in the situation?

  • well, you mentioned his alleged libertarianism, so getting all huffy at a commenter for challenging it is pretty weak.

    And Glenn’s libertarian purity is clearly not what the post is about, so challenge it, fine, but if you want to hijack the thread to discuss it when asked to move on, you will find yourself deleted and banned. This is, after all, private property. Is that libertarian enough for you?

  • Pa annoyed:

    When we’ve discussed this sort of thing in the past, some of the more hardcore Libertarians have told me that they have no obligation to come to the aid of others.

    Well I agree no one should be under a legal obligation to risk their lives for someone else without prior consent. However if they let the fact they have no legal obligation stops them helping out when their neighbour’s house is on fire then they are worthless un-socialised cowardly jackasses who deserve to be treated as such. I hope you would tell these folks that being libertarian means accepting other people’s right to call them a cowardly jackass and shun them for their behaviour, no?

  • Blue Texan,

    I don’t think we are reading the same Glenn Reynolds. Reynolds never claimed to be a big “L” libertarian. He merely considers himself libertarian leaning. He has also said that the term “Southpark Republican” pretty much covers him as well.

    The liberation of Iraq is virtually the only area in which Reynolds seems to agree strongly with Bush. On social issues, government spending. law enforcement, stem cells religion etc he disagrees quite strongly. He thinks the Patriot Act is a bureaucratic joke that will leak powers intended to combat terrorism into the general criminal justice system.

    People who advocate libertarians because they wish to solve or prevent real world problems must almost always choose between the least disagreeable of two pro-government candidates.

  • ian

    Dave, above, has it right I think. This is what the anglers at the scene did, using their rods to haul teh little girl out.

    It is rather hard on the PCSOs – fake cops or not – to blame them for not putting themselves at further risk – and potentially therefore trained rescuers when they arrived on the scene. In fact there was apparently only one PCSO anyway – the other one had gone to make sure the emergency services arrived at the right lake, there being several.

    Also – would you let your 10 and 8 year old children – apparently unable to swim – to play unsupervised in this sort of setting? I’m assuming they were unsupervised because no one has said anything about whoever they were with jumping in. Or is it perhaps too good a chance to lambast police and government?

  • Gib

    Further risk ? Exactly what further risk is there of an adult in a pond ?

    Were there sharks in there ? Crocodiles ? Big currents sweeping you out to sea ?

    It’s a POND!

    Anyone who can’t save a couple of kids from drowning in a small puddle of water shouldn’t be able to look at themselves in a mirror in the morning, let alone put on a police -like uniform.

  • Daveon

    Exactly what further risk is there of an adult in a pond ?

    It’s cold, it’s murky, it was reported as 6 feet deep. I’m a trained life saver (or used to be Bronze Medallions don’t last forever) and I’d think twice about that.

    Normal reasons for an adult drowning in those situations is they get their feet caught in pond weed and get pulled under, or they try and stand up when they’re tired and don’t realise that there’s going to be inches of mud and silt on the bottom that will suck their feet in. So they touch bottom, try to push themselves up and end up under water. If you’re not experienced in finding your way up in dark water this isn’t as easy as you would think it would be. A couple of gulps in panic and you’ve another person gone.

    If you don’t know how to tow somebody in the water, if you don’t know how to subdue somebody panicing (and believe me they do that too), and you don’t know how to get an unconscious person out of water unaided you should think twice about getting into any water where you can’t see the bottom. Basic lifesaving. As I said, reach, throw and then think very carefully about getting into the water and how you are going to get in.

  • Steevo

    Yes it was murky and 6 feet deep. I think judging from the picture some might call it a small lake – whatever. This is just a tragedy. I think if there is ‘blame’ it shouldn’t be judged as callous or ill-willed. And the parents have some nerve in my opinion, they should be not be exonerated any more than the PCSOs if blame is to be placed. Its an accident. Just an accident my goodness.

  • We thought you’d enjoy this bit we posted, uh, four and a half years ago:

    “Whatever the feelings of Ms. Kelly’s friends about the US Navy presence in the West of Ireland, it was the luck of the Irish for one lass that on 7 February , a former member of the US Navy, Mick Perkins, from dreaded Texas, was visiting. He put his Navy training to work to rescue her after she had “had fallen into an icy canal at 2 a.m. in Galway city centre”. (Independent February 8, 2003).”

    Then we remembered that as an eleven year old, we pulled our five year old brother’s water-logged body off the bottom of a swimming pool. He made it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    They weren’t police officers, Jonathan. They were PCSOs – AKA Blunkett’s Brownshirts – and police blogs, as opposed to the official line, are uniformly scathing.

    A bit nit-picking Guy and somewhat misses the point anyway. These people have certain powers, like traffic wardens, etc.

    It’s cold, it’s murky, it was reported as 6 feet deep. I’m a trained life saver (or used to be Bronze Medallions don’t last forever) and I’d think twice about that.

    I hate to be rude, Daveon, but that’s not a very impressive attitude, if you do not mind me saying. A 6ft murky lake in Lancashire is hardly that terrifying. Sheesh.

    Paul:

    well, you mentioned his alleged libertarianism, so getting all huffy at a commenter for challenging it is pretty weak.

    No Paul; I was challenged by one of these-now tedious ideological bores who decries the use of the word “libertarian” to describe anyone not signed up to the full-on zero state, isolationist line of the LP, etc. I described Reynolds as “broadly libertarian”, a statement that I think is not controversial; however, I did not want this thread to be hijacked about the War (zzzzzzz) and made my point. It was ignored. Amazing how people who like to prattle about property rights cannot be arsed to respect the rules of private discussion forum.

  • BromBob

    Police dogs have 13 weeks training, apparently. I read somewhere else that PCSOs have … six weeks.

    Says it all.

  • Daveon

    I hate to be rude, Daveon, but that’s not a very impressive attitude, if you do not mind me saying. A 6ft murky lake in Lancashire is hardly that terrifying. Sheesh.

    Say what you like, I don’t mind, but you asked for the opinion of people who’ve been trained in life saving and that’s my opinion. (IIRC the RLS person speaking on Radio 4 the other day said pretty much the same sort of thing, they’ve been teaching that stuff in their training for decades.)

    As I said, if I had been there, I’d have gone in – if all other routes had failed, but getting into the water would not have been my first choice, it shouldn’t be for anybody.

    People don’t treat water with anything like enough respect and that’s a mistake.

  • Charles Giacometti

    I’m a big L liberal, and I know first aid and advanced CPR. It has nothing to do with politics. It comes from wanting to help others if I am able to. In my experience, most libertarians I know are too emotionally stunted to ever even consider something like first aid training. They are too busy whining about taxes.

    I see that you ban Blue Texan, an excellent blogger, for making the completely obvious point that Instarube is not a libertarian, big or small L, and claiming he “hijacked the thread.” But then you let other people defend Reynolds. Are they not also hijacking the thread? Or are some hijackers better than others?

  • Midwesterner

    Maybe I’m an exception. As a sailing instructor, I was provided with first responder for medical professionals training. No, I am not a medical professional but that is the level of training we were given. We also, predictably, had intensive training in water rescues both with and with out using a boat, and I have taught several hundreds of people beginning to advanced MOB (man over board) drills.

    Also, as a club leader, I received Nonviolent Crisis Intervention training. In addition to being useful for ‘the usual suspects’, drunks etc, it was useful for dealing with people in the throes of a panic attack. It forever amazed me how many of my students took sailing lessons to overcome a fear of water. But neglected to tell me that little detail.

    Everyone who ever contemplates helping someone, please read this next part.

    If you arrive on the scene of an injury or critical illness (suspected heart attack etc) let me please remind all of you of the part of your training where they tell you not to force your care on a person against their wishes. Please, don’t do it. Wait until they go unconscious, and then use your best judgment and training to save them. But as long as they are conscious and expressing themselves to you, either follow their directions if reasonable, or do nothing.

    I say this as someone who attempted to decline care from an ambulance crew that, according to a witness, overpowered me and rendered what they thought was the correct care. I believe they badly exacerbated my (non obvious) injuries, caused me to have permanent irreparable damage and brought about most of the dozen and a half or so following surgeries.

    They were doing the same thing my training tells me to do in the same circumstance except they didn’t do one extremely important thing. They didn’t allow me to decline care. I DID know better. I was that one in several hundred case where ‘the right thing’ was absolutely the wrong thing.

    Cooperate to the best of your training with the injured person until they can no longer communicate with you. At that point, follow your training to the best of your judgment.

    I agree with the statement that we must not be legally required to render help, but I thank everyone who does choose help. Here in Wisconsin, we have a ‘Good Samaritan Law’. These laws are generally along the line of prohibiting law suits against non professional first responders for help rendered with good faith intent to help. Basically, if you are trying to help during an emergency and you make a mistake (and even if you don’t but the person is still inclined to sue), you are indemnified. I think it goes long way towards encouraging people to get involved.

  • Sarah

    Getting trained in rescue swimming (the Red Cross in my area required it to get their top-level swimmer certificate, so I did it) and first aid (I passed out in first aid class, but I keep trying) is just common sense. It could be your kid/spouse/whatever drowning.

    I don’t think I’d jump in if I couldn’t see a target, incidentally. Your advantage when you’re outside the water is that you can see everything — once you jump in, you’re pretty much screwed if you don’t know where to go.

  • I’m a big L liberal, and I know first aid and advanced CPR. It has nothing to do with politics. It comes from wanting to help others if I am able to.

    Wanting to help is admirable but assuming you do not mean ‘classical liberal’, presumably your politics are about compelling people to help rather than self-help or voluntary freely given help? Surely you do not want people getting the notion that help via social interactions might be the way to go rather than force backed state mandated behaviour that a big L liberal presumably would prefer?

    I see that you ban Blue Texan, an excellent blogger, for making the completely obvious point that Instarube is not a libertarian, big or small L, and claiming he “hijacked the thread.”

    Because he was repeating himself after being asked to move on. Just as I will delete your further comments if you do not do the same.

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    For fun and info, you might check out Hood’s Woods

    Cheers

  • Saladman

    I would be interested to know how many commenters here have studied first aid or rescuing people in difficult situations, like from drowning

    Trained in Red Cross first aid and CPR (but I ought to requalify, and queasiness may have limited how much I learned). Not a strong enough swimmer to contemplate diving in after someone, much less train to do it. But if I understood the situation, I might try reaching in or wading in if I had a line to hold onto.

    Also – would you let your 10 and 8 year old children – apparently unable to swim – to play unsupervised in this sort of setting?

    Frankly… yes. This is how I grew up here in the states, going our to play without parental supervision, around the neighborhood or at a creek. I do intend to make sure my future kids know how to swim better than I do now, and start self defense training earlier than I did, but its not historically normative to try and watch your kids every waking second. At some point you have to let them develop habits of responsibility and caution.

  • guy herbert

    Me, I almost certainly wouldn’t have jumped in. If you don’t know the water it isn’t a good idea at all. I might well have waded. I don’t know what the circumstances were clearly enough.

    Which is why I thought that they were PCSOs was precisely the point. The disclaimer made for them did not say they’d assessed the situation and made a decision that it was dangerous or pointless to intervene, which would have been reasonable. It did not fall within their “rule-obsessed” training, therefore they ceased to function other than as a reporting device to authority.

    PCSO powers are limited, yet being extended now. Not only do they not have the same training as police officers, they are, crucially, not sworn constables, and do not operate under the principle of Peel that they exist to protect life and property.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    There’s nothing about self-defense or first aid that has overlaps political philosophy,

    I beg to differ; political philosophies that exalt the state and seek, quite deliberately, to regulate civil society have precisely such an effect. Of course, the advocates of Big Government might swear on their mother’s life that they have no such intention, but such is the effect of their actions. The evidence cannot be denied: we are becoming an increasingly infantilised, risk-averse society.

    PCSO powers are limited, yet being extended now. Not only do they not have the same training as police officers, they are, crucially, not sworn constables, and do not operate under the principle of Peel that they exist to protect life and property.

    Guy, in what way are their powers being extended? And forgive me, but your point did seem to be a bit nit-picking to me; regardless, they are adult human beings, and should have demonstrated rather more concern than they did.

    Of course if they were in fear of their own lives, that is another issue; but in all that I have read on this sad case, it is not clear that the “officers” or whatever they are called out of concern for their own safety. The sponge-brained morons.

  • Sunfish

    POST plus another six months of in-house training, EMT-B with IV, American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED instructor, and next year I’ll be adding either Wildland Firefighter or NASAR Fundamentals of Search and Rescue.

    I frankly don’t know if I would have gone into that water either. To me, there’s a qualitative difference between jumping into water where I can see someone who needs pulled out, and jumping into water where I can’t see anyone. Never mind that they teach “Reach throw row go” as the order in which one should try a rescue. I do carry rope in the car, and attaching a small weight to the end so that it may be thrown accurately is trivial. FWIW, I would have gone for a swim if I could actually see the child.

    I’m with Saladman on one point: The only way kids will learn to function independently is if they actually do go out and play, sometimes without their parents close to hand.

    Mid,
    Very important point about consent. What I’ve been telling all of my (non-PD) students was basically what you just said. However, I emphasize that, once a person is unconscious he falls under “implied consent” laws. Actually, the only variation that PD students get is specific to children with immediately life-threatening injuries.

    Also, we have a (probably identical) Good Samaritan law here. The unpaid or volunteer rescuer has an amazing amount of protection. I love it!

    Joshua,
    The ARC basic First Aid/CPR/AED is one long day, about nine hours total. It’s very basic, intended for the lay rescuer to be able to stabilize a victim until EMS arrives. The Red Cross also offers a class called Wilderness First Aid, which gives you a little more background and techniques for when the EMS won’t be there in ten minutes or when you may need to bring the victim to them (not recommended unless you absolutely must)

    Your school’s office of student life (or whatever they call it) may have classes scheduled. If there’s a Physical Education or Recreation department, they may actually offer some of the above for elective credit.

    Shannon Love:

    Even when the authorities do arrive they are often non-professionals who have donned a hat for the day. In small towns (under 5,000) most emergency services such as fire fighting are still staffed by community volunteers.

    There are towns and there are towns. Very few EMT-Basics are paid in their roles. It’s such a minimal level of training and there are so many of us. Firefighters are often volunteer, but it’s not uncommon for them to have attended the same fire academies as paid firefighters. In my area, even the volunteer firefighters have paid command staff. Unpaid cops are less common: we call them “reserves,” and relatively few agencies use them. We’ve abandoned our reserve program, for instance. There are practical limitations on the ability to be an effective cop that don’t apply to firefighters or EMT’s.

    Anyway, I’m going to stop here. I could easily fill this entire thread without referring to Ron Paul or the Puppy Blender at all, but Perry’s server would crash before I was done.

  • Sunfish

    Screw it, I couldn’t stay away.

    Pa, met some of the so-called “hard core libertarians” you mention. I don’t really like the notion of forcing a legal duty on bystanders who otherwise have nothing to do with the person needing help. However, a person who would do nothing at all is IMHO unworthy of consideration, and especially when the intervention would not put the rescuer at risk.

    See Natalie Solent’s very excellent post last month (concerning the NHS victim, er, “patient” who couldn’t get a nurse interested in the fact that she was in labor), and especially the story I posted at the end. Oh, I was freaking livid when I found that.

    When we train for off-duty events, the dominant rule is “be a good witness.” That is, we’re not expected to die on our own time over a shoplifter or a bad driver. Off the clock, I’m basically just a random slob with better training than the average CCW licensee.

    However, that rule breaks down when there’s an immediate threat to life and where our intervention could potentially have life-saving value. When “being a good witness” means witnessing someone die, then you have to do more than that. It comes with the paycheck, I guess. However, all we are, are the people who give full time attention to matters that are incumbent on everybody.

    Peel said so himself.

  • Sunfish

    One last time and then I’ll shut up.

    The American Red Cross is probably the largest provider of basic first aid and CPR training in the United States. Okay, they’re asshats in many ways, but at least they have okay training. If you’d like to go beyond their basic first aid or the Wilderness First Aid I suggested to Joshua, then look into what’s called “First Responder.” FR is a curriculum maintained by the US Department of Transportation, and is similar to Emergency Medical Technician: it’s basically EMT-B with a number of things removed. The Red Cross offers it under the course title “Emergency Response.” You can also find First Responder (or EMT-Basic if you’d rather make a greater commitment) at your local community college or voc-tech school.

    If you’re not working professionally in EMS and not planning on it, then WFA plus CPR/AED should be plenty. FR and EMT spend a great deal of time on subjects that are beyond the scope of the average lay rescuer: you probably will not be carrying oxygen, Epi-Pens, or KED boards in your car.

    The same community college that offers EMT or FR will also offer a basic fire academy. This will take you through the Fire Fighter I certification published by the NFPA, and will probably make you welcome at your local volunteer fire department.

    Police and fire departments also offer what are called “citizens academies.” Those aren’t for training people to be the police or ride around on a big red truck, but for having an idea of what the respective departments do and what they themselves can do. Worth it, IMHO.

    Any of the above, if they offer a volunteer program, they’re probably always looking for people.

    You can also get in touch with your local (usually county) emergency management office. They’re always looking for volunteers and always willing to share information on what individual people can do to improve their own chances in bad times. The most famous volunteer programs are ARES and RACES, which used radio hams, but there’s a lot more. Also, they’d be the primary point of contact for the FEMA Community Emergency Response Team, which is a volunteer program that individual communities maintain for floods, wildfires, etc.

    I have to say, one thing impressed me: in any discussion about disasters and emergencies and ineffective emergency services, a thread with all US-based readers would have made it exclusively about guns in under a dozen posts. I like how that hadn’t happened here.