Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Little Sioux Ranch

Here is a story from popular mechanics about Surviving and facing disaster. It has a interesting scouting twist and I think that all scouts need to read it. Here is the link to the full article:

Click here for full article.

Here is the excerpt about the Scout Ranch in Iowa:

Rule 2:

Keep Cool in a Crisis
The tornado siren sounded at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in western Iowa just before the power went out on June 11, 2008. Scout Leader Fred Ullrich, an IT manager at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, opened the door of the building where he and 65 Boy Scouts had taken shelter. “I was looking for lightning and listening for that freight train sound you’re supposed to hear with tornadoes, but there was nothing like that,” Ullrich says. “But something told me we were in deep trouble—I don’t know what it was. I yelled for the boys to get under the tables.” As the scouts dove for cover, the wind came up. Ullrich leaned into the door from the outside, trying to push it shut, but instead he was picked up and thrown from the building. Then the 150-mph wind simply blew the Boy Scout shelter apart. “I can only describe my actions in that moment as being totally futile,” Ullrich says. “There was absolutely nothing I could do.”

Once the tornado passed, Ullrich noticed he couldn’t hear out of one ear. He felt around and fished out a stone. All around him was chaos. Some scouts were pinned under a collapsed brick chimney; others were trapped by the debris of the wrecked structure. For a brief moment Ullrich was dazed. Then he went into autopilot rescue mode. “I don’t know how to describe it,” he says. “It was like my brain went away, and I went to a very businesslike place.” He circled what was left of the disintegrated shelter, directing the able-bodied to take care of the injured. And the scouts did just that—applying pressure to wounds, turning T-shirts into bandages and elevating the legs of those who were in shock. Ullrich used a 6-foot iron bar to pry up a wooden board and bricks that had fallen on one boy.

In a disaster roughly 10 percent of people panic, while 80 percent essentially do nothing. Unable to come to terms with what’s happening, they freeze. The remaining 10 percent jump into action. Ullrich was trained in CPR and first aid, skills that doubtless helped the scouts that day, but before any of that formal training would even matter, Ullrich needed a separate and equally important skill: to get hold of himself and get people organized.

According to Chris Hart, a former Navy psychologist and now professor at Texas Woman’s University, being able to set aside fear is what separates people like Ullrich from others. “Fear is a good thing,” Hart says. “You want to have it because it can motivate you to action. But if you become overwhelmed by it, then it’s debilitating.”

What’s worse, research shows that the greater the number of people who are involved in an emergency situation, the less likely it is that anyone will intervene—a phenomenon known as the Bystander Effect. Ervin Staub, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, who has done extensive research on the subject, says that in group situations, there is a diffusion of responsibility; people look for cues from others before deciding how to act. “Just being aware of this tendency and saying ‘I am responsible’ can make a difference. People who believe that they are responsible for other people’s welfare help more.”

Ullrich didn’t know what he and his scouts were in for that day, but mental preparedness and responsibility are central to the Boy Scout philosophy. The night before the tornado, Ullrich had put the boys through a first-aid drill. When emergency responders arrived after the tornado, what they saw was devastating—four scouts were dead or mortally wounded. Scores were suffering from broken pelvises, dislocated shoulders, lacerations and punctured lungs. Yet, amazingly, the rescue crew also saw that Ullrich and the uninjured scouts were putting their training to work. They had organized an on-the-spot triage center, helping to prepare the most seriously injured for their journey to the hospital.

By teaching his scouts to leap into action, Ullrich skewed the 10-80-10 math of disaster. He saw the drill as part of his responsibility to care for the troop. “The point of it is to get these scouts to be the people who don’t sit around when something bad happens,” he says, “but to be the type of people who do something.”

Yours in Scouting Service
Mark W
Assistant Scoutmaster
Troop 1616
Great Alaska COuncil
Eagle Scout OA Brotherhood Member
NSJ '05 WSJ '07 '11 Philmont AA '08

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