Out from the mudslide and debris – no shortage of critics will emerge
“Monday-morning quarterbacking” will undoubtedly surface – overshadowing the heroic efforts of first responders in the early and ALWAYS dysfunctional “fog” of any crisis response, as well as “back-seat driving” the ongoing mammoth efforts in the aftermath of the Oso devastation.
The initial stages of the local response to the shocking mudslide this past Saturday will be “microscopically” scrutinized; every decision analyzed, every minute accounted for, every statement to the press dissected – all from a comfy chair in a comfy office, without the clock running or lives on the line. Already the “know-it-all” pieces from the so-called experts at the news desks are weighing in with their customary finger-pointing and tone.
This serves no worthwhile purpose, but WILL WOUND the response leadership, emergency workers, volunteers and families of the victims. As with all disasters, a painstakingly detailed after-action review (AAR) process happens when the dust settles, emotions cool, the adrenaline super-charge wears down and the “recovery” process is in full throttle. By recovery, I mean debris removal, road clearing and the slow agonizing return to “normal” for the residents of Oso, Darrington and Arlington – “normal” being a “relative” condition – the pain of these events will never go away.
The morning and evening press conferences are very revealing to the keen, studied observer. As D-plus 5 unfolded fatigue and work overload were starting to show. Understand – the very operationally/technically-laden leadership roles are not the “ideal” 2-3 deep, allowing rest and energy replenishment for all involved. Passionately stated by Chief Hots in that morning’s media briefing, he described his “day off” the previous day, spent at the muddy scene getting a “hands-on” sense of how his “guys” were doing and feeling out where the actual digging and searching was going on – instead of sleeping and eating something other than cold pizza.
A comprehensive knowledge of the landscape, rescue operations, local systems/institutions and established relationships already in place, along with the pulse of the community – not to mention the quality of “leadership” almost MIA today – to find all those facets in two or more individuals – impossible – and definitely not from “outsiders”, no matter how willing or compassionate. This response effort is very personal to ALL the “locals” involved.
As observers from afar, in the safety and comfort of our heated and dry homes or offices, it behooves us to “cut some slack” to those who are tirelessly and unselfishly putting themselves on the line to do the best job they can to serve their community, families and friends in this tragic crisis response effort.
– Article submitted by Robert Mitchell, M.D.
This article is 8th in the author’s Crisis Response 101 educational series devoted to hospital emergency preparedness. Robert Mitchell, M.D., is an Edmonds resident for 30 years, board certified in OB/GYN, practicing at Stevens/Swedish-Edmonds for 18 years, retired from active OB/GYN practice in 2002. “I was struck by the events on 9/11 and became interested in the areas of disasters and response attaining board certification in Disaster Medicine in 2007. Now embedded in many local disaster response projects, I have enthusiastically volunteered all my time over the past eleven years working with Joint Base Lewis-McChord, hospitals, law enforcement, emergency management and the fire service in crisis response training, planning and exercises. As acting medical director and Lead Instructor for the SnoCO Fire District 1 Basic Disaster Life Support course and an adviser to the Disaster Medicine Project, a SnoCO Fire District 1 initiative, I am committed to strengthening our healthcare and community resilience potential.”