Monday, May 27, 2013

Always be prepared, even on the Holidays

I'll admit, I didn't have a Memorial Day post lined up for today. There are plenty of great blog writers that can bend the English language to their will much nicer and prettier than I can. But today, I got the chance to give back just a tiny bit.

My family and I went to the Columbia Zoo for the day. The weather was perfect, the zoo animals somewhat cooperated, and we found a Starbucks on the way back, so life was pretty good cruising on I-20W. As the kids were watching Despicable Me on the car's DVD player, my wife and I were figuring out what to do for dinner.

Then I saw a tire fly up in the air about 10 cars ahead of me.

The first thing to strike me was "Wow, that's kinda odd, tires don't normally go up in the air like that all on their lonesome."

When I saw a blur of grey, I realized that I was watching a rollover accident happen.

I happened to be in the left lane, so I pulled over, stopped the car, got out, and started running towards the accident. I came upon a Ford Expedition on its roof, with three people outside the car and two still trapped inside the car. There were already a host of people around, and I could see three people being tended to near the vehicle.

I walked up and crouched down and asked an older lady that was in the passenger seat if she was OK and if she could feel her toes. When she said she could, I crawled into the vehicle, calmed her down, and asked her if she'd like to get out of the car (she said yes, not surprisingly). I saw that her seat belt was keeping her in, so I reached up and unbelted her, and with the assistance of two guys outside the car, we pulled/pushed her out of the vehicle, along with a young kid that was still in the vehicle.

After we got everyone out, there was a bit of a pause, with everyone standing around that wasn't actively tending to the five passengers. So, I acted:

- I directed half the folks to pull off all the debris and pile it on the side of the road
- I had the others line the sides and begin directing traffic

Within 10 minutes of the accident, we got all the victims out, first aid applied, and traffic moving again. Not too shabby! The EMTs were able to pull all their vehicles up pretty quickly (due to the moving traffic) and took over the situation. Overall, I was back in my car in about 45 minutes from start to finish, driving past the wreck. Everyone was taken to Richland Hospital, and from what I can tell, they were doing just fine.

I learned a few lessons today:

- Wear your seat belt. Two people were thrown from the vehicle and suffered more than the others.

- Physical fitness is important. Pushing that gal out of the vehicle was a bit strenuous. I'll admit, while I value PT (and do just fine on my PRT every year), I tend to (like probably a lot of folks) prioritize a lot of other things over PT. Today taught me that attitude has to stop. The next time, I might be the only person pulling someone out of a wreck.

- Leadership means nobody stands around. I didn't do anything particularly heroic or lifesaving (even if the lady had stayed in the vehicle, she would have survived just fine), but I did speed up the recovery quite a bit. Too often I think everyone is ready to respond to the big crisis, but once the shock is over, there is a lot more to do. It's sexy and cool to pull someone from a burning building, but sometimes what you really need to do is flag down motorists and pick up debris. Everyone there was ready to help, and it's not like I brought any particular skillset to the situation. What I did was get everyone pulling in the right direction, such that it made a bad situation better.

Always be ready to stand up when you're called upon. You never know when that may be.