Thursday 22/10/2015

Don’t panic! In the relative calm and safety of your lounge room, this might seem like fairly obvious (and possibly patronising) advice. But during an emergency, this advice can save your life. When something has gone catastrophically wrong, your base instincts aren’t always your best friend.

Over the years I have learned not to do some things the hard way. This also applies to relying on the wrong people. Over the years I’ve twisted arms, legs, hands and feet in ways nature hasn’t intended (one of the accepted risks of full contact training); I’ve had shards of glass and chemicals in my eyes; had a few very nasty cuts (one of them opened an artery), choked on food, and survived an electrical shock. I believe the only reason I am still alive today is the mantra “Don’t panic”.

Each incident was a traumatic event, and it would have been very easy to let panic take over. In a majority of these events, panic would have led to inaction or the wrong decision. Instead of panicking I became intensely focused on whatever task was going to save my life (even if it was as challenging as applying pressure to a severed artery with a grotty handtowel while giving directions to other folk in the vicinity). One evening I was on my own and I choked on a piece of banana; I administered the Heimlich Manoeuvre using the corner of a bench. If I had have panicked, I wouldn’t have been found by anyone else for several hours.

One of the things that helped me not to panic in those situations was knowing how to deal with the problem. First-Aid is a vital skillset to possess; and to be honest, I’ve used my First-Aid skills to patch myself up more often than I’ve used it to help other people (and I’ve helped more than a few people over the years).

Controlling your urge to panic is useful in every situation, especially if everyone else in the room has gone into meltdown. If everyone else can see that there is at least one calm person in the room, they may calm down enough to take simple instructions, and which in turn will help someone else.

When confronted with your first bushfire, panic is never far away. The flames stretch high into the sky and climb into the nearby trees, the heat is impossible to explain and the roar of the flames is louder than you can shout. If you panic, it will end badly not only for yourself, but your teammates too. Trust in your training, trust in the men who stand with you, and you trust your captain.

Remain calm, think clearly and don’t panic.

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