Learning to prepare for disaster

A bomb explodes. Tables and chairs are tossed in chaos, and people are screaming in pain.

A trauma scene is the last place that medical professionals want to feel unprepared, and a recent workshop taught local caregivers how to react in the face of disaster.

Anoka-Ramsey Community College Cambridge Campus hosted the Spring into Preparedness workshop Friday, March 28. Emergency personnel listened to keynote speakers, attended workshops and participated in a trauma simulation.

Cambridge Medical Center’s Susan Eisenbacher was one of the presenters. As an registered nurse, she’s dealt with a variety of patients. Her seminar taught emergency care workers how to care for mental health patients in disaster.

When dealing with a person who is paranoid, “Don’t put your hands in your pockets or behind your back,” she said – those are signs of authority that can be disconcerting to patients. When talking with people in wheelchairs, she says, “Get down to their level.”

She also talked about safety in disaster situations with mental health patients.

“If your gut is talking to you, listen to your gut,” Eisenbacher said. “Anytime I’ve ever been hit is when I didn’t listen to it.”

Other sessions touched on self care in disaster. American Red Cross professional, Janice Springer, talked about obstacles in disaster.

She warned professionals to keep  shifts to less than 12 hours. She also talked about compassion fatigue and reminded emergency workers to completely check out of the disaster when taking a break from it.

“Don’t turn on the TV,” she said.

Michele Erickson has been a registered nurse for 33 years, and she appreciated the networking opportunity the workshop enabled.

“I liked finding out what’s out there, the techniques to use in a disaster situation and ways to take care of yourself,” Erickson said.

The day ended with a fake bomb blast as part of a trauma simulation exercise. Professionals were put to the test by applying what they had learned from the day to sort, code and “operate” on patients.

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