It was time for the RescueNet introductory course. Equipped with work clothes, boots, goggles and helmets, we entered into the 2-week camp that was designed to introduce us to the world of practical disaster response. In advance we were warned: “You won’t be the first to vomit…or cry… or walk out…” so we were expecting to be challenged.
It makes sense – putting participants under pressure and seeing how they react before accepting them as a potential member. Disaster response teams deploy into chaotic, even hostile settings, and attacks on aid workers are at an all-time high. We appreciate RescueNet not only recruiting a group of competent individuals, but focussing on creating a quality team. When we deploy, we know that we will be able to trust the person at our side.
The course was indeed challenging, mostly thanks to sleep deprivation. Alongside the two biggies – disaster medicine and search & rescue – the course also covered many other aspects of disaster relief including field security, child protection, radio communications, UN operations and the science underlying natural disasters (go on, ask us how tornadoes are classified). Lectures were interspersed with practical exercises and simulations.
It is one thing to learn the theory, but another entirely to implement it in the field. Tending to ‘casualties’ while all sorts of distractions are going on around you. Working with, looking out for and communicating clearly with your teammates (most of whom you barely know). Ensuring you have all of your equipment and protective gear ready and in working order. Adhering to safety best practices in all situations. Remembering to constantly radio in your status using the correct protocols. Looking out for potential hazards that could instantly render you another victim. Wrestling with the elements whether it’s beating sun or hurling rain.
Add to this the physical exhaustion of transporting fully grown but immobilised men and women from the disaster site to the medical area, and by the end of each 13-hour day we were simultaneously buzzing with adrenaline and collapsing from exhaustion. Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to give many details away regarding the scenarios, but suffice to say they involved impressive amounts of ketchup.
Having survived completed the course, we have returned to our normal responsibilities. For Alastair that has included juggling a fair amount of maintenance work on base (ranging from blocked sewage pipes to a temperamental Wifi network) in addition to RescueNet work, whilst Dani is mainly concentrating on the WHO verification and developing the Disaster Preparedness Program.
We’ll certainly be missing our friends and family back home as Christmas draws close. I doubt 30 degree heat will ever feel normal for celebrating Jesus’ birth, but we’ll do our best to get into the spirit of it. And as the end of 2017 approaches, we want to say thank you again for believing in us and for giving generously of your prayers, thoughts and finances. We look forward to the New Year and discovering where God will lead us next!