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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Thursday 15/10/15

Summer is already making its presence felt, and with summer comes the bushfire season. If you live in an inner city apartment block, bushfires aren’t a big problem for you. But if you live within a couple of blocks of bushland, you need to prepare your home as soon as possible.

It is too late to prepare for a bushfire when the bushfire is already burning its way toward your home. You need to prepare today. Below is a short list of simple chores you need to complete to help you keep your home safe during the bushfire season:

  • Inspect your garden hoses. Are they still in good condition? If not, replace them. You may need them to put out a fire on your property.
  • Make sure your hoses are long enough to reach every point on your property (including the roof).
  • Roll your hoses up as soon as you’ve finished using them. This ensures they are ready for use during an emergency.
  • Mow your lawn and keep it short during bushfire season.
  • Weed and maintain your garden (don’t forget to remove dead leaves and other debris).
  • If you have trees or shrubs near your home, prune them back.
  • Remove any twigs and leaves from your gutters.
  • Make a conscious effort to keep your lawn free from leaves, twigs and other debris. These are fuel for fire.
  • Repair or replace any missing or damaged roof tiles. Missing or damaged roof tiles let airborne embers into your roof space.

The jobs on this checklist will take time to complete, but you are investing in your own safety. Set a time this weekend and get them done. For the sake of a little yard work, you are eliminating a lot of potential problems around your home.

The above information is the bare basics to help keep you and your family safe this summer. For more detailed information on planning for bushfire season (and live updates of current bushfires), please visit the NSW Rural Fire Service webpage .

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Thursday 08/10/15

Winter is over and summer is already making its presence felt. As the hotter weather makes an impact on your daily life you have to make a conscious effort to ensure you have your water bottle with you whenever you leave the house.

Whether you like water or not, it is the only liquid you should have in your water bottle. Sure, cordial and sports drinks might taste better, but they aren’t as versatile as water. You might be thinking “How can water be versatile? It’s just water”.

Many years ago, when I was an active member of the volunteer bushfire brigade, the captain drummed into us “Water bottles are only for water”. The five reasons he gave stuck with me since that day:

  • To flush foreign bodies out of your eyes.
  • To flush debris out of wounds.
  • To pour over burns.
  • To moisten your bandanna to use as an air filter in a bushfire.
  • To moisten your bandanna to put around your neck to help you cool down.

None of the tasks listed above can be achieved with sugary drinks. You don’t need too much imagination to understand just how unpleasant it could be if you tried.

If you still think drinking water isn’t for you; you need to change your way of thinking. Your body was designed to drink water not food dye, chemicals and sugar. Trust me; your kidneys will thank you.

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