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GRI research assistants reflect on lessons learned from Northeastern University’s Preparedness Day

Preparedness Day at Northeastern University was a round of training and informational sessions taught by police officers, detectives, and experienced health and safety experts in May 2018. Research assistants from the Global Resilience Institute (GRI) attended various sessions that included a wide range of categories from personal preparedness in daily lives to international travel safety. The key takeaways from each session contributed to GRI’s resilience preparedness informational toolkit, which can be seen summarized below. Overall, the GRI research team learned a lot about how the theme of resilience must be incorporated into all aspects of preparedness. We are excited to participate again in the future!

Personal Preparedness for People in a Hurry

Research Assistant: Erin Bourque

Personal Preparedness guides are set on the table for participants to take home and use to help them arrange their emergency supply kits. (Photo by Rachel Abastillas/Northeastern University)

New Englanders are subject to all sorts of extreme weather, from ice storms to tornado outbreaks and everything in between. Remaining constant, however, is the need to build an emergency kit at home, at work, and in vehicles before these events strike. As Associate Director & Emergency Manager of Northeastern’s Police Department Todd Kaplan reminded participants at the “Personal Preparedness for People in a Hurry” workshop, creating a potentially life-saving kit is easy. There are just five considerations to keep in mind:

First, kits should have non-perishable food items and at least three gallons of water per person.

Second, kits need first aid items and medications, both over-the-counter pain relievers and any prescription medications. Remember to account for the unique needs of children, the elderly, or others using the kit.

Third, utility items like flashlights, duct tape, cash, a manual can opener, and extra batteries are always handy.

Fourth, communications items including a hand-crank radio and corded landline phone can provide access to critical information during an emergency.

Finally, furry (and not-so-furry!) friends also need to be ready for emergencies–keeping extra food, water, and any necessary medications will ensure that Fido is prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws New England’s way.

For a full list of basics to include in an emergency preparedness kit, click here or visit ready.gov.

Active Threat Preparedness

Research Assistant: Delanie Smither

The Active Threat Awareness session provided an overview of how to prepare for, act during, and address an encounter with a hostile subject that wishes to cause serious injury or death. It began by clarifying the intentional usage of “threat” and not “shooter”, as has become ingrained in common vernacular, due to the wide range of potential threats other than firearms (i.e vans, bladed weapons, and incendiary devices). Unlike in other sessions, where de-escalation practices were discussed, the Active Threat session urged that uncontained active threat situations are not those in which de-escalation tactics should be utilized. Instead, prior preparedness, situational awareness, and the active threat “plan” are all factors in ensuring maximum safety during hostile encounters.

The active threat “plan” is as follows:

  • Run – Running is the first and optimal option, and involves getting out of the danger zone as quickly as possible.
  • Hide – If running is not a viable, hiding in a secure and hidden place, in complete silence as not to alert the threat, is the next option.
  • Fight – If neither running nor hiding are possible, fighting to incapacitate the threat is the final option. It should only be used as a last resort, and coordination between other people is key.

The presenter highlighted that in order to optimize survival in an active threat scenario, a “survival mindset” is necessary. This includes thinking about actions in such situations before they happen, and increasing situational awareness.

Creating a More Resilient You!

Research Assistant: Maria Robson

In “Creating a More Resilient You”, presenter Rita Ghilani from E4Health led participants through an interactive discussion of personal strengths and weaknesses and strategies for building personal resilience. A general theme for the event was: what strategies help individuals overcome challenges not just to survive, but thrive? Rita indicated that research shows that facing at least three major challenges in one’s life and overcoming them produces more personal growth than never encountering significant adversity. The presentation included a discussion of resilience – on the individual level – as a “dynamic psycho-social process”. The overall message conveyed to the participants was the importance of health in resilience during the everyday responsibilities at work and in daily life. Barriers to resilience that came up in the presentation included: closed-mindedness (assuming that a situation is beyond your control), over reactions, misunderstandings, and negativity. Rita presented a five-step model for personal resilience:

  1. Know thyself
  2. Explore your energy drainers
  3. Understand how you typically react, relate to, and approach difficult situations
  4. Identify your core strengths
  5. Determine how you can harness your strengths so that in times of difficulty you meet challenges head on.

The session concluded with a mindfulness exercise for all participants.

Tabletop Exercises in Natural Disaster Preparedness, Concussion & Sprain Management, Diabetes Management, Seizure Management, Signs & Symptoms of Heart Attack, Signs & Symptoms of Stroke

Research Assistant: Ari Young

In the Behrakis Health Sciences Center, students and faculty from the Bouvé College of Health Sciences had set up several tables with information on varying health risks, providing preventive tips and resources to learn more and help others in an emergency. At the first table I visited, I learned about warning signs of a stroke and critical steps to take in the event I observe someone exhibiting symptoms. Signs to watch out for include slurred speech and droopy facial features; if it appears someone is experiencing these effects, it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately and tell the dispatcher that the patient may be having a stroke. At the next table, I learned about the signs of low blood pressure. Though it can be difficult to notice symptoms of high blood pressure, low blood pressure tends to present itself along with dehydration and signs of exhaustion and malnutrition. Low blood sugar presents similar symptoms, though demands different treatment. For low blood pressure, hydration is generally recommended; for low blood sugar, people are encouraged to consume a moderate portion of sugar. At the last table I visited, I learned about the risks of concussion in sports, as well as some long-term effects associated with them. While long-term effects can not necessarily be prevented once a concussion has occurred, best practice is to get adequate rest and recuperation and of course, to avoid further head injuries.

Until Help Arrives / Stop the bleed

Research Assistant: Towsif Ahasan

At the Stop the Bleed event, officers from Northeastern University Police Department presented on the steps that bystanders should take to provide basic aid to individuals that have been injured and are bleeding out. The officers showed participants the highest risk locations, including major arteries, joints, and locations such as lungs that require delicate care. They described current policy shifts among different government departments, such as fire and police, and different policies around regional departments, with regards to carrying around tourniquets.  They explained that tourniquet usage and application had been abandoned in the past and are being re-adopted among different communities. They also provided technical instructions on how to apply tourniquets, emphasizing that they should typically be high as possible or three inches above the wound, and that it should painful and that no one should remove them except medical professionals. Later on, the participants were given tourniquets, gauze, and bandages to practice using the materials on themselves.

International Travel Safety

Research Assistant: Amanda Knightly

The International Travel Safety session informed attendees of resources for traveling abroad, whether for Northeastern-related travel or personal purposes. The presenter, Alyssa Fontana, is an international safety analyst with the Northeastern University Police Department. For Northeastern students, faculty, and staff, there is a myriad of both online and on campus resources. For example, Northeastern’s International Travel Website allows affiliated persons to register their travel and read up on their destinations. For those Northeastern affiliates wishing to travel to countries deemed high-risk, either by the University or the State Department, this session detailed the petition process for necessary travel. Ms. Fontana also discussed in-country travel safety tips for avoiding inconvenience, crime, or even life-threatening situations. Ultimately, this session emphasized with the right preparation and awareness of your resources, international travel does not have to be stressful.

Security Awareness: Focus on Public Facing Roles  

Research Assistant: Yitzhak Henry

At the Security Awareness Training: Public Facing Roles, officers from the Northeastern University Police Department took the audience through how to maintain situational awareness within a public-facing role and how to deal with agitated individuals. To begin, they went through the qualities important for public-facing roles such as being good at engagement and being attentive. Situational awareness involves four major components: recognition of suspicious activity, decision-making, de-escalating, and planning. The keys to de-escalation are empathy and remaining calm, with the goal of preventing escalation from mere agitation to violent behavior. Such behavior includes, according the the NUPD, “any behavior that may threaten the physical or psychological safety of a member of the community”. The main tool to identify potential for escalation to violent behavior is intuition. There are seven keys to handling an agitated person: violence should only be used as a last resort, protect yourself first, avoid challenging postures, maintain personal space, open as manay clear line of communication as possible, and listening. The barriers to de-escalation are a refusal to listen as well as criticism or pre-judgement.