It's supposed to snow today.
To most of my readers, that's a pretty benign comment. You get snow all winter. It's an every year occurrence. But here in the heart of California's Central Valley, we don't get snow. We get frost every winter, but no snow. We get rain, and occasionally, hail.
And fog. We get a lot of fog.
Indeed, at my house a "White Christmas" comes from a blanket of thick fog that keeps you from seeing all the way across the back yard.
Today is different. Today we are supposed to have a combination that is extremely rare in our parts: below freezing temperatures with precipitation. Usually, clouds overhead trap the heat and keep us from being too cold. Rain usually guarantees it won't freeze.
If snow falls, someone is going to get frostbite. It won't be the deep, fingers-falling-off sort of frostbite that folks get in the wilderness, but it'll be bad enough to be a topic of conversation at the firehouse. Hopefully, when we do see frostbite, we'll recognize it.
Excuse me now. I'm going to make a snowman.
The 911 calls from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut were released today. Some say it's a bad idea to release these recordings. Do we really need to hear this? Do we put the families through this pain?
One of the arguments I've read in the blogosphere is that only the "experts" have any useful insights on the content of those recordings. Not true. The best pressure to cause change happens through transparency. The public needs to hear what happened.
Not everyone will want to listen, and that's fine. Others will listen for less than honorable reasons. Let's face it, some folks want to hear it simply to satisfy their morbid curiosity.
But there are lessons to learn for all of us. All this year I've been conducting "Active Shooter" drills to practice our EMS and law enforcement responses to something like Sandy Hook. One of the recurring discussions was brutally illustrated in the recordings. At least twice in the recordings that have been released, teachers mentioned that their doors were not locked.
You might be shocked that a teacher wouldn't lock his or her door immediately. The problem is that some schools--Sandy Hook included, at least at the time--have doors that can only be locked with a key from outside the classroom. When I taught at the local community college, my classroom's hardware worked that way. It never crossed my mind that it could be a life or death issue.
The most important thing I heard on these recordings is professionalism. The call-takers were calm and in charge. If you listen closely you can hear the tension, but they knew how important it was to move information as efficiently and as accurately as possible.
And they did.
The dispatchers weren't the only professionals. Teachers, one with a gunshot wound to her foot, kept their wits and relayed information as calmly and as clearly as possible. One custodian provided much needed intel for the dispatchers to relay to responding officers. Despite being disconnected a couple of times, the dispatcher regularly sought him out.
There is certainly going to be a plethora of Monday morning quarterbacking, especially by folks with no experience playing on this particular field. That's okay. It creates a discussion that might one day save lives.
It's cold. It's snowing. The power's out. How are you going to get lights and heat?
Answer: generators and burning stuff, both of which can release carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is much more common in the winter when cold weather leads to more furnaces and fireplaces being used. The crazy cold weather we've had this year makes the issue even more dire.
There are a few absolute rules to staying warm and bright during winter storms and cold snaps:
- NEVER run a generator indoors without proper ventilation
- NEVER cook or light a fire on an outdoor grill indoors
- NEVER leave a candle burning unattended
- ALWAYS keep a flashlight handy so you don't have to burn candles for light
You also need to know the signs and symptoms for carbon monoxide poisoning to make sure you can recognize if it happens:Read More...
Christmas decorations can be very dangerous
Fireplaces and candles mixed with dry trees and hot lights. Christmas brings a multitude of extremely beautiful decorations, many of which are flammable, generate heat, or both. The National Fire Protection Association says there are more house fires started by candles in December than in any other average month.
Avoid disaster with good fire planning
Carbon monoxide poisoning also goes up as the weather gets colder.
Make sure your holiday decorations are safe. Use candles carefully. Keep the tree watered or use an artificial tree.
Make sure you have proper fire safety equipment in your home to keep the whole family protected.
Remember to make an emergency escape plan and practice it.
Have a safe holiday. For more information on safe decorating and fire safety, read these:
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If you plan on shopping today, take heed: bundle up because it's cold out there and pay attention, because your fellow shoppers might get serious.
In 2011, a Wal-Mart shopper looking for deals whipped out a can of pepper spray and unleashed on her competition; that sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit or an Adam Sandler movie. Too bad it actually happened.
In San Fernando Valley in California, more than 10 people were sprayed by what some folks are called a "competitive shopper." Remind me to wear a gas mask and football pads next time I go to a holiday sale.Read More...
For all the folks celebrating Thanksgiving today, may you have a wonderful and safe day with family and friends.
I'm thankful for all of you who come to read and comment on the tips and information here at About.com First Aid. I'm thankful for my kids serving in the armed forces. We are a 3-star family and I'm proud of my soldier, my sailor and my airman.
I'm spending this Thanksgiving cooking up a homemade feast with all the trimmings. It's a carbfest around here and today is also a no-guilt day for whatever we eat. Tomorrow, we can fast (or eat leftovers).
Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers! To all my readers wherever you are, thank you for joining me another year.
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A few years ago our little dog, Daisy, was diagnosed with diabetes and cataracts. It was actually the cataracts that led to the vet visit. During the visit, the vet started asking some questions that immediately clued me in to what she was thinking.
Vet:"Is she urinating a lot?"
Vet: "Is she drinking a lot of water?"
It was at about this time that I realized my dog was diabetic. Frequent urination, thirst, and disability with eyesight are the same symptoms of hyperglycemia in humans as in dogs. Unfortunately, Daisy never regained her eyesight. However, she did go on to live four more years with insulin shots twice a day.
It was through Daisy that I learned insulin is an over-the-counter medication. We were about to run out of insulin one day and the vet's office was not answering the phone. I called the pharmacy to see if they could help us out and the pharmacy tech told me that unless my dog had insurance, I didn't need the prescription.
It makes total sense. Insulin is a self administered, life-saving medication that people need to be able to access even when their doctors are not available. Just because it's over-the-counter, however, doesn't mean it's cheap.
Over the last four years, we have had a lot of people tell us that we should euthanize Daisy. Maybe it's because my wife and I both work in EMS, but we never had a problem giving Daisy her shots. As far as we could tell, Daisy lived a happy, healthy life.
Her health finally started to deteriorate. Over the last year, Daisy lost a lot of weight, stopped eating, and developed dementia. When she started having trouble standing and panic attacks, we had to take her to the vet for her final visit.
Daisy was a tough dog. She was run over by a car, twice. She was stung by a bee and had an allergic reaction that caused her to swell up like the Michelin man. She experienced a cartilagenic embolism that left her hindquarters partially paralyzed. She had to wear booties on her hind legs because she would drag them. If she didn't wear the booties, she would cause her feet to bleed.
In case you're wondering, dog booties cost about as much as insulin. My shoes don't cost that much.
Daisy learned how to walk again without the booties. As you can tell, she was one tough female dog (insert joke here). We will definitely miss her around here. She taught us a ton about caring and responsibility.
Ever wonder if warning labels actually work? A study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that they do. Fewer kids visited the ER for overdoses after warnings were put on cough medicine labels. Of course, the warnings came with a public relations campaign.
Maybe the reduction in ER visits has more to do with public education than labels. The authors admit that one can never be sure. They also say there's a lot more to be done to make kids safer from cough medicine exposure.
Dr. Lee Hampton, the study's lead author, was quoted in a Reuters article: "The three main things is first don't give cough and cold medications to children less than four years old, keep medications up and out of sight and properly lock the caps on medication bottles."
At my daughter's dance competition last weekend, a young man smashed a few of his fingers in a hotel door. He is a little guy, about 6 years old. His mom is the studio owner and she sought out my wife, knowing that she's in EMS.
My wife looked at the injury and decided he would live. She suggested that he keep some ice on it and keep it elevated. Of course, when your patient is in first grade, "elevated" requires some explanation. She told him to keep his hand up when he was walking around or just sitting and watching the competition.
He took her instructions to heart.
We later learned from his mom that he wouldn't even cut his own food, because "the lady told me to keep my hand up." Fair enough, but mom vetoed the advice, at least during dinner.
His fingers are healing just fine, which is what usually happens. However, sometimes the fingers don't heal that well and you need to do a little more to get relief.
I was reminiscing yesterday about my last disaster response. I went to the Gulf Coast to help out after Hurricane Ike in 2008. We were having trouble getting around Texas, so our strike team stopped at the store and got GPS off the shelf for each of the ambulances.
We named our GPS unit Lola.
No reason, exactly. We just thought she sounded like a Lola. She wasn't one of those GPS units that pronounces street names, so she was simply all about telling us what to do and when to do it.
And she got mad at us.
Lola was an unforgiving taskmistress. She expected to be followed promptly and without question. If we didn't make a turn when she wanted us to, she let us know that she's upset. Lola had a special word for her frustration.
She said it with such finality, too. She just kept repeating it every time she thought we were ignoring her.
The worst part was, you couldn't tell Lola anything. She had no sense of humor. I tried to joke with her: nothing. I tried to include her in the conversation: nothing. No matter how much I tried to break the ice -- I mean, we did have to work closely together -- she absolutely ignored me until she had something to say. Then, oh boy, I'd better listen up.
Lola was barking orders one day while I was trying to follow my fellow ambulances into the gas station. I told her at least three times to hold on, but she kept right on talking. She doesn't pay attention -- if she did, she'd know we were trying to get some fuel. I didn't listen to her, and she let me know it.
Sometimes, Lola was plain wrong, but you couldn't tell her that. She'd think we're still on the freeway when we were not. If the exit dumped us too close to the interstate, she'd be convinced we missed the off-ramp. Once in a while Lola ordered us to turn where no roadway existed, or announced our arrival at a bank that hadn't been a bank for at least a year.
There's no correcting Lola when she was wrong. "But, Lola, they're building a new freeway interchange" didn't even warrant a response from her. She got absolutely indignant when we wouldn't turn on the phantom roadway or she thought we didn't get off that freeway. You could almost hear her sigh as she reminded us how frustrating it is to work with such nincompoops.
It was her one commentary on life. It was the only thing she said that wasn't an instruction. Lola is a GPS of few words. She didn't drop names or discuss sports scores. She once went over 160 miles without saying anything at all. She didn't seem to care why we were there. She wasn't interested in hurricanes or disaster relief. I asked her about her hopes and dreams and she ignored me.
Don't get me wrong; I had to give Lola props. Without her, we'd have been truly be lost. When it came to finding food, fuel or getting back to base camp, Lola was nothing shy of a rock star.
But she didn't want to hear it. If I told her how indispensable she was, I don't think she'd have cared. I don't even think she would have acknowledged me. Lola had a job to do. She told us where to go and that's it -- no nonsense and all business. We'd better listen to her, because if we didn't she'd say -- in her annoying, overly efficient way -- how she was reconsidering the benefits of this career opportunity and that she's not sure she really wanted to continue the relationship. And in her efficiency of language, she would say it all with one word.