Thursday, 31 December 2015

December: That's a wrap!

Hi everyone,
It's nearly 9pm.  It's just about a wrap for 2015.
It's been a frustrating couple of days here on the farm.  Yesterday the morning was spent unloading the drilling tools that we brought back from Rushworth the other day.  Maybe I'm getting cranky because of the heat, but I have an annoying feeling that most of these tools will never be used in reworking the wells on the place.  In which case, we've just gone to a lot of time and effort to bring back and set up yet another pile of rusty steel.
The day had its upswing when I went into Shepparton to the Blood Bank.  You know how much I love doing that.  I know it seems absurd to derive so much happiness from having a vein pierced and getting wired up to a machine, but there you go. 
My next donation is my hundredth, which I have oddly mixed feelings about.  I hope it can be done quietly.  I hate showboating.  Besides which, if they didn't supply such awesome cookies, there's no way they'd get me through the door!
This morning saw Michael and I up on the roof of the shearing shed, replacing loose nails (which was most of them) with screws.  We pushed on through the morning until midday, at which point it was far too hot to keep going.  I may have had a bit too much sun, because my eyes were starting to see in greyish tints, so it was good to get inside and rehydrate.
Everybody laid low in the afternoon, and I typed up my "year in review" post.  It didn't really cool down until about 7pm, at which time I took the dog for a walk and let him swim in the two dams that are still fairly healthy.  It's about the only way the poor fellow can cool down
Michael insisted on going back up on the roof to do some more repairs at about 8pm and then got stuck up there (he got up without working out how to get down).  He's now back indoors and a trifle cranky.  We're back up on the roof together tomorrow (happy new year to me!).
Not much more to report, although I'm looking forward to kicking off tomorrow with a run.  Definitely the way to get 2016 off to a blitzing start!
Happy new year good people!!

Year in Review: 2015

Hi everyone,

Here we are, New Citeaux's first 'year in review' post.

There's a lot to digest for 2015.  In many ways, it's been both a very good year and a very trying year.  One might even consider it to be life in a nutshell, no?

It's been another year without seeing the girls, and frankly I feel further away from them than ever.  This is not a good thing.  In 2016 I'm going to make a point of writing to them every week that I'm away from them.  They should never have reason to think that their Daddy doesn't think about them. 

The year kicked off, of course, with five months of unemployment.  You learn a lot from those times.  I'll never look down my nose at anyone on Centrelink again.  It's not great to be unemployed long term and stop looking for work, but now I can understand how people can get utterly jaded of the system and think "I'll just send off a crappy CV and covering letter: I'm not going to get the job anyway so what does it matter?"  I hadn't really grasped just how demoralising it is.

I also learned that I'm tougher than I thought I can be.  I can lob up and do hard labouring under crummy conditions and keep a smile on my face, even when I'm fed up: just hold your tongue and keep an eye on the clock (or the sun, depending on what brings the day to a close).

My word, what a lot of new skills were gained this year!  Overwhelmingly through SES of course: chainsaw, general rescue, rooftop safety, flood and storm damage, boat crew and road crash rescue all leap to mind, and I know that's not a complete list.  People warned me that SES can take over your life.  I didn't expect to be so entirely OK with that.  And I didn't expect to find generally giving a damn so rewarding either.  A goal for 2016 is to sign up new members for each of the SES, the Blood Bank, and the Red Cross.

I was surprised to find this year that art matters much more to me that I thought it did.  A very good friend and I were talking about "what would you take to a desert island".  I was trying to be honest and found myself coming up with a list that included (or that in hindsight would have included) -
Image from here
  • Paper and pens. 
  • Music (probably Durufle's Requiem and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue
  • A couple of photos and pictures of paintings (among them, A Woman Out Shopping with Her Pet Rabbit, Santa Monica, California and Lady with an Ermine)
Image from here
Dama z gronostajem.jpg 
Image from here

On that note, readers who are so inclined might like to check out the Arts Party.  I'm not a member, and wouldn't be on board with their whole program, but they do seem like they'd bring an interesting perspective to politics

The Arts Party of Australia logo.jpg
Image from here.

Regular readers will have heard me blither about religion a bit here.  I think that writing about that sort of thing has taught me quite a bit, and arguing with people taught me a bit more (I learned that once an argument has become circular, it's almost impossible to get it out of that pattern).

Running and fitness have been as big a part of my life as ever this year, and my weight is now down to about 71 kgs (from a starting weight of 89 kilos).  I achieved my primary distance target (Houston to Clinton, CT) and secondary target (South Portland, Me), but I'm about 100 miles from my tertiary target of Kenduskeag, Me.  I need to figure out my challenge for 2016!

And for 2016?

I need to find a permanent job (for one thing, my current gig is only till April).  Sadly the job market up here is still pretty dire and I think I may have to move away.  I'm not fussed as to distance: once the girls left, I kind of became a sojourner anyway.  I have a constant feeling of my feet touching the ground lightly wherever I am.

I want to see the girls this year.  A third year away from them is unthinkable.

And I want to keep developing personally in the direction that I've been heading this year.  I have a hard time explaining quite what that direction is, but I know for a fact I'm a much better and more interesting person than I was 12 months ago.  If that doesn't speak well for 2015, I don't know what does.

Happy new year everyone!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Loading a truck

Hi everyone,

Posting this from my phone.  It's been a tiring day.

I spent a big whack of the morning cleaning the turkey frying rig.  Thus meant lots of scrubbing at the soot and oil that were mixed on the pot and burner.  I got them as clean as I could, but my hands were black as pepper by the time I was finished.

Oldest Sister Economist and Nik got on the road for Canberra mid morning. Not long after, Dad, Former Bro in Law and I had a bit of lunch and then piled in the truck to go to Rushworth to pick up things from the shed there.

The trip over was a little hair-raising.  I was in the spare seat in the truck and had no seatbelt.  I was visualising possible road accidents that were likely to see me propelled through the window

Loading the drilling tools took plenty of muscle and manoeuvring.  It got more challenging the longer they were in the sun: I started wishing I'd worn my riggers gloves.

Loading took about 3 hours. We were back at the farm by about 6:30pm. I took the dog for a good long walk.

Not much more to note here.  Blood back appointment tomorrow which I'm looking forward to.

Hope your days are starting out well!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Flood risk in Louisiana

An eye-grabbing story by Mark Schleifstein appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on 25 December 2015.

Rain in a number of parts of the watershed of the Mississippi river has been significantly above average for this time of year (in some places, 500%-600% greater than normal for this time of year).  The extra rain may lead to flooding in parts of Louisiana by about 19 January.  One region likely to be affected is the rural area near Angola State Prison.  Another is New Orleans: the flood level for the Army Corps of Engineers' Carrolton Gauge is 17 feet.  It is currently at 12.1 feet and rising.  Some of the measures open to the Corps to reduce the danger for New Orleans will raise the risk for Morgan City and the Atchafalaya Floodway.

Map showing all 13 RFCs
Image from here

If you're concerned about the risk of flooding, there are some steps you can take to prepare.  It's prudent to prepare an emergency bag.  I've talked about these in other disaster preparedness posts, but to recap: a good emergency kit should contain
  • Portable radio with spare batteries
  • Torch with spare batteries
  • First Aid kit
  • A copy of your emergency plan
  • Bottled water
  • Enough non-perishable food for three days
  • Rubber gloves
  • Food and special requirements for pets
If an emergency does occur, you should also add:
  • Important documents such as passports, birth certificates and insurance papers
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Strong boots or shoes
  • Medications and prescriptions
The International Civil Defence Organization also recommends including details of your vaccination history and blood type (you may want to generate a medical identification card with these details).

In responding to flood danger itself, the Victorian State Emergency Service gives advises -
  • Stay Informed – monitor local conditions and be aware of the situation
  • Never drive, walk or ride through floodwater
  • Floodwater is toxic – never play or swim in floodwater
  • If you are likely to become isolated, make sure that you have enough food, water, medication and pet food, and be aware that you may need to live without power, water and sewerage
  • Raise belongings by placing them on tables, beds and benches, or move them to higher ground
  • Block toilets, household drains, sinks and plugs to stop sewerage backflow
In addition, the International Civil Defence Organization advises -
  • Switch off electricity, gas and central heating.
  • Implement the measures planned for the immediate protection of people and the environment (if possible untie and set free animals from stables and other such buildings).
  • Do not cross flooded areas on foot or in a vehicle. If necessary secure yourself by holding onto ropes or cables.
  • Collaborate with public safety bodies and the services helping the homeless.
In addition, you might like to pass this post on to people in the area who you think should be aware of flood risk.

Preppers and Civil Defence

Are preppers a help or a hindrance to civil defence?

I've written elsewhere about the need for well organised civil defence as a means of responding to the threat of terrorism.  Upping the stakes to (say) an Electro-Magnetic Pulse attack or a major hurricane, rather than a straightforward mass casualty event, what would happen?

Image from here

On one hand, preppers will be physically and psychologically ready for a major disaster.  They can be expected to be self-reliant and not require rescue.  It's also not easy to imagine them hampering rescue and relief crews.

On the other hand, prepper thinking regularly assumes that society as a whole will fail.  That governance will cease to exist in a real sense, and that neither public nor private relief efforts will be effective.  This seems to me an attitude which has accepts defeat on a number of fronts.  The energy which so many skilled and motivated people put into securing the survival of themselves and of small groups could achieve much more if it were applied to saving communities, towns, and cities.

What do you think?  Is prepper-hood a bonus for disaster preparedness?  Or a potential problem?

First Aid Brushup: Chest injuries

In my previous First Aid brushup post (covering blast injuries), I touched on responses to chest wounds.  There is more that can be said on that subject.  As stated in the last post, much of the information is drawn from Kym Eden's Fun with First Aid.  In addition, I have also drawn on John Haines, Emergency First Aid (2nd ed., Australian First Aid, Melbourne, n.d.).

Identification of Injury

An open chest wound represents a significant threat to the casualty's heart and lungs: these wounds exert significant and destabilising pressures inside the chest.

A chest wound can particularly be identified by -
  1. The casualty's altered breathing.  Their breath may become irregular, rapid and shallow, and possibly very painful.  When the patient inhales there may be a sucking sound, and they may cough up frothy red blood.
  2. The wound itself may bubble with a frothy liquid, or give off a bubbling or crackling sound.
  3. The casualty's neck veins may become distended and enlarged, and the lips or fingernails may take on a blue tinge.


A first aider should if at all possible wear gloves to reduce the risk of infection.  After the primary wound has been dealt with, check for exit wounds and manage them appropriately.

Conscious Casualty

A conscious casualty should be put into whatever position will is most comfortable.  Ideally, this will be seated and reclining, with their chest tipped towards the injured side.

Ideally, your first aid bag will contain plastic film (Glad-wrap or something similar; aluminium foil is also an acceptable choice).  Use the film to cover the wound and tape it at the top and on the left and right sides.  Do not tape the bottom edge: leaving this edge loose means the dressing will act as a one-way valve, letting air escape from the chest but not allowing it to enter.  If no film or foil can be obtained, use a hand to cover the wound.  If no other option is available, tape or bandage a sterile (or at least clean) dressing over the wound.

An ambulance should be sent for urgently.  In the meantime the patient should be kept warm, rested and comfortable and their breathing monitored.

Unconscious Casualty

An unconscious casualty should first be treated as for a failure of heart and lung function and the usual processes for CPR followed, including defibrillation if required.  Move the casualty into the recovery position with their injured side down and apply a dressing as for a conscious person.  Call for an ambulance, and while waiting for help to arrive, keep the casualty warm and monitor their breathing.

A cat in a tree

Hi everyone,

Follow-up post from yesterday.  The balance of the day went well and the pager did indeed stay quiet aside from a few administrative messages.

I forgot to say that Oldest Sister Economist's dog (Kushla) managed to terrorise Tom the Cat yesterday.  Usually when Kushla is here, Tom has a bit of a mental breakdown (picture Daniel in the lions' den, only utterly terrified).  He usually avoids Kushla altogether, but yesterday morning they met furry face to furry face on the verandah.  How did that story end?  It ended like this:


I saw him later in the day, so he definitely got down.

The day itself passed off quietly.  We watched an archaeology DVD through the day, and the dogs had a few walks.  In the late afternoon I headed out for a much needed run.  I'd intended to go about 10kms and wound up going about fourteen.


I was doing OK though and not particularly worn out by the end. I would have gone further, but I'd said I'd only be an hour or so.  I went back to the farm.  On the plus side, I should still have enough spring left in my legs for a gentle 10 kms this afternoon.

Today has been pretty quiet too.  I gave the dog a decent long walk, and cut some thistles and Bathurst burr as I went (they're starting to come through again). 

Not much more to note just now  (apart from that the old boy and Former Brother In Law got back just as I was finishing; the latter is in a sulky mood. Oh joy). 

Hopefully I'll have reason to type another post later today!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

My orange Christmas

Hi everyone,

Finally writing an update on the last few days.  It's been an orange Christmas here.  Why orange?  We've had callouts over each of the last few days, and I think I've been doing my bit for emergency readiness in Victoria.

December 22nd.

This day was a quiet at work although there was indeed a callout - a bunch of tiles missing from a roof in Shepparton.  My SES unit was mobilised along with the Shepparton emergency unit.  It wasn't the easiest place to get a roofline set up (it was a big roof!) and it was my job to go up to do the repairs.  It wasn't the greatest material to work with: the tiles had been laid pretty loosely and getting them to bed down securely wasn't easy. I think it was pretty sound by the time we left, and I'm pleased about that.

December 23rd.

I was at work this day, and at about 10am there was a callout for a road accident at Harston: a vehicle rollover.  The vehicle was totalled, but I think the driver will be OK, save that for a few weeks he'll feel like he went ten rounds with a header.  It was a good turn-out by our unit, and the accident was also attended by the CFA, police and ambulance service.

Image from here
Headers: Not a bad analogy for how a casualty feels.

December 24th

Last day of work, although there wasn't a huge amount of work to do.  I had a letter to draft in a matter that involved digging into the Water Act 1989 and the Forests Act 1958.  It was an interesting exercise, but done by 11:30.  I killed time until eventually I pulled the pin at about 3:30pm and left.  I headed down to Murchison: I hadn't been for a run in ages and I decided to bust out some miles on the rail trail.  I'd previously gone to the end of the 'marked' trail, but I was feeling good and so I decided to keep going on the bush track beyond.  I went to what I thought would be a good turnaround point, whereupon I went off the bush track and ran on the rail-line itself back towards Murchison.

This was the point where I turned around.
Intriguingly, the former rail line actually became quite easy to spot out in the timber beyond where the trail itself ended.  The embankment and the cuttings were both very clear to see.  My instinct is that the remains of the line probably go most of the way to Rushworth.  When I have a day spare, it might be a good adventure to either run or cycle.

That evening I read for a bit and by about 1am I was just settling down to sleep when the pager went off with a priority one job: a person had been injured and (in effect) trapped in part of a building.  I hotfooted it into Shepparton and met the other members of my unit, although there wasn't a great deal for us to do aside from a little traffic control: another (closer) unit had also been mobilised and had extricated the casualty by the time we were on scene.  Again, no details and no pack drill, but I can say confidently the casualty would have been very sore the next day.  I was home and in bed by about 2:30am. 

December 25th

I slept late with no guilt on Christmas Day.  Little Sister had come up the previous night while I was out at that job and it was good to see her.  It was another hot day and a lot of the time was spent simply lying low and avoiding the heat.  As I've said before, Christmas Day is kept fairly quiet in my family, given that the older sisters spend the day with the families of the Nik and JP.  The best bit of the day for me was skyping with Grace and Rachel.  They'd just come back from Christmas eve Mass, and the Ex had arranged for them to open the presents I'd sent them from Amazon then (the ones I posted from here are stuck in Chicago).  Lordy but they were excited and so thrilled to see their Daddy.  They loved the Swarovski ornaments and were thrilled by the Mousetrap game, and also by the idea of playing Scrabble.  And the Ken and Skipper dolls absolutely hit the spot.  They love me hugely, and I love them the same.  I'm so proud to be their Daddy.

Oldest Sister Economist and Nik arrived down at the farm at about 9pm. They're both doing well and it was great to see them.  We were just having a cup of tea when the pager rang with another priority-one job.  This time it was a person trapped in a motel spa!  So, on went the orange overalls and off I went again.  This time an ambulance, a couple of fire trucks, and two emergency service units (including us) had been mobilised.  It turned out it was a lady who was trapped, rather than a man as originally advised, and so all but one of the fire crews was sent home: the poor woman's dignity was being trashed enough by being seen in that position by the firies without a bunch of extra people being involved. 

December 26th

Today I woke up to the most beautiful sound of all: gentle rain, and the sound of water flowing into a tank.  I stretched out and enjoyed the sound of rain and the cool air until (you guessed it) another page came through, this time for a leaking roof in Tatura.  While I was waiting for the duty officer to advise whether a crew was going to have to attend, I got up and got dressed.  I made some breakfast and poured coffee.  I'd just started eating when the message from the duty officer came though asking for people to attend.  Yep, I oranged-up and headed over to Tatura.  I'm not gonna lie: I was happy to be going to the job.  Not because I wanted to escape my family, but because it was great to get out and do something with my other family.  The problem with the roof turned out to be a displaced tile, and so we set up the safety line, and it was agreed that I'd go up on the roof to fix it.  The fix itself took only a minute to do, and I nudged a couple of other iffy looking tiles back into place while I was up there.

Oldest Sister Economist had asked me to pick up some ointment from the vet in Tatura, which I did.  I got back to the farm about 10:30am, just as Uncle Greg and Jacquie were arriving.  This was less than ideal: while I was very happy to see them, I'd said I'd have a turkey fried by 12:30pm.  I was going to have to work flat-out to make it happen, and this wasn't easy with people wanting to talk Christmas cheer and with a couple of small children tearing about.  I'm afraid that I must have seemed rather rude and abrupt as I injected the marinade and coated the turkey in seasoning.  While I was doing that, Dad set up the frying rig and I started getting the oil hot.  Frying the bird was a hair-raising exercise: it was a 7 kilo (15.4lb) bird in a small pot, with the oil about half an inch from overflowing.

I kept needing to adjust the temperature to keep the oil as hot as possible without making it boil over: oil boiling over onto a gas flame tends to ignite.  Sometimes it just means a few big licks of flame.  Sometimes it means the pot goes thermonuclear:
Watch this video - trust me, it's worth it!

I had only one genuinely hair-raising moment, when there were some big slops of oil down onto the flame: a couple of sheets of fire threatened to ignite the pot itself but fortunately didn't.  It was at that moment that I realised I didn't have any access to an extinguisher that would work on cooking oil fires.  I decided there and then that if it ignited, I was going to back away and leave it to burn.  Despite all of this, after an hour it was done and was as good as ever.  Definite win for me!

A little after the turkey was finished, Second Oldest Sister and JP arrived, with the avalanche of food that S.O.S. loves to cook.  They brought the base for the plastic Christmas tree, and JP and I supervised as my uncle's kids decorated it.  It was lovely to see that my little cousin Felicity had insisted on wearing her "Princess Ana" costume.  It made me think of my own girls and how much they loved Frozen - Grace especially loved Queen Elsa, and so I smiled when Felicity said that her favourite song from the movie was 'Let it go'.

The day itself passed off well.  Lunch went with no great awkwardness or difficult moments which was a huge relief.  At the insistence of the little cousins, presents were opened after lunch.  I hope the presents I gave were good enough: I always worry about that.  I know it's the thought that counts, but I'd hate people to suppose that my thoughts were "how can I make as little effort as possible?".

The afternoon passed off well as we digested lunch and talked and played with Greg's kids.  I took the dog for a walk down to the dam and took the kids with me which they liked (in hindsight, it was probably a bit too far on little legs - whoops).

A bit before sundown, Greg's family headed off and Second Oldest Sister and JP got on the road for Melbourne.  Most of us grazed on leftovers for dinner and I started writing this update.  It felt great to stretch out in bed and start to digest. If the pager went off, I wasn't getting out of bed for anything less urgent than nuclear war!

December 27th

I have to say, I felt a lot less stuffed when I got up this morning.  Dad and former-brother-in-law were keen to head down to the Peninsula for today and tomorrow in the truck, so that means that I'll be up here.  Fine with me: I do rather want a long run.  The weather is sunny and mild, and hopefully the pager stays quiet.

Not much more to note.  All being well I'll write a bit more later today.  I hope everything is going well with you!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas Eve, 2015

Hi everyone,

I'm sitting here at work on Christmas Eve, having drafted the letter I needed to prepare today for review in the new year.  Now I'm just waiting out the clock till I can decently slip out the door and go for a run down at Murchison.

Is anyone else feeling singularly un-Christmasy this year?  Usually by now I'd have listed to a couple of favourite tunes and had the Charlie Brown Christmas album on repeat (actually, I don't limit it to the festive season - it's a great example of West Coast Jazz).

Image from here

It'll be good to see all the sisters plus Nik and JP.  I hear Former Brother In Law is coming as well.  Little Sister is apparently OK with it, although frankly I think it's going to be awkward and embarrassing (for everyone's point of view, including his).  I dunno, I think the reason I'm fairly unaffected by holiday spirit this year is that there've been kind of a series of issues each year.  The Christmas after the girls were born, I invited a couple of friends of the Ex and me over, because I thought she liked having people around and wouldn't like it being a lonely Christmas (I was epically wrong).  The next year she and the girls went back a few weeks before Christmas.  The year following, the day after Boxing Day, I got the phone call telling me I'd effed something up disastrously at work (which ultimately led to my sacking).  Christmas 2013 was good, but then last year I was out of work with no prospect of a job.  I try not to think too much about when I was married - not even about the good bits - but I can't quite block out the feeling of contentment on Christmas Eve when I'd make myself hot chocolate with rum, read the nativity narrative, and then turn the lights out and just spend a while looking at the steadily growing Christmas Village that she and I had slowly been building.  It was a wonderful time in my life, but the truth is that right now I'd love to be able to delete it from my memory.

Image from here
"Why did you join the Foreign Legion?"
"I wanted to forget".
"What did you want to forget?"
"I don't know - I've forgotten.  The system works."

In case you're wondering: no, I'm not about to run off and join the Legion.  If I'm in that much of a hurry to die, it's a lot easier cheaper for me just to fly up to Port Moresby and walk through town at night waving a wad of money.

I think I'll give Midnight Mass a pass tonight.  I can't really explain why, except that I haven't been an especially good Catholic this year, and I don't find I'm really in the right frame of mind anyway.  Going would feel like another attempt to hang on to something that's gone.

I can't think of anything more to add.  This is really just a brain dump anyway.  I should post more later: right now I'm going to wrap up here and head off for that run.  I'm looking forward to it.

More later.

Monday, 21 December 2015

First Aid brushup: Blast Injuries

Hi everyone,

What this is about

A while back I wrote about the need for a focus on well-organised civil defence as part of responding to the threat of terror.  With that in mind, I'm going to write a series of first-aid themed posts covering the sorts of injuries which might be expected in a terrorist incident, as these are (understandably) often only lightly covered in first aid courses.  This is the first such post.

Sources, Disclaimer and Legal Jiggery-Pokery

Unless otherwise stated, I'm taking this from Kym Eden, Fun with First Aid (11th ed., National First Aid, n.p., 2013).  While the book has a light-hearted style, it covers things in good detail.  


I should disclose that while I hold a first aid certificate, I am not a medical practitioner, nurse or paramedic (although I'd welcome any comments or contradictory opinions from people better qualified than me).  The advice I post is effectively unqualified and any liability you incur from following it is yours alone.  I strongly recommend that every person should seek formal first-aid training from a suitable agency in their jurisdiction.

Blast Injuries


The circumstances may make it obvious that the casualty has been injured by a blast.  However, the following will make clear that this has been the cause -
  1. Extensive multiple soft tissue injuries (shrapnel wounds).
  2. Fractures and Burns.  Burns will be fairly obvious.  Fractures can be identifed by severe pain at the location of the injury; the injury site may be deformed or bent at a strange angle, as well as being bruised or discoloured, swollen, inflamed and tender.  If a limb is affected, the casualty may be unable to move it.  The fractured bones may audibly grate together, and the casualty may report the limb to be numb or tingly.
  3. Coughing up of bloodstained fluids.
  4. Deafness or bleeding from the ears.
  5. Shock.  Shock is essentially the effect of significant internal or external blood loss.  Initially shock an be indicated by a raised heartrate and rapid breathing, and by pale or cold skin.  As it progresses, parts of the the casualty's body may start to have a grey-blue colour (if you squeeze their fingernail, the colour may take some time to return).  They may report being nauseous or may throw up.  They may also report feeling weak, dizzy, restless and thirsty.  If the condition worsens even further, they may become confused and disoriented, drowsy (and start yawning) and begin to slip into unconsciousness.  If untreated, death will result.

For every casualty -
  1. Assess any danger in the area (for example, fire, downed power lines, unstable walls or ceilings, suspicious packages).  Do not place yourself in significant danger in order to help: nobody needs a dead hero.
  2. Send for help
  3. Identify and control any bleeding.
  • For external bleeding, place direct pressure on the wound, ideally with a clean pad.  Secure the pad in place with a bandage.  The bandage needs to be tight enough to keep the pressure on, but not so tight circulation is affected.  If a limb is affected, and if it is possible, lift the limb above the level of the heart to reduce the blood flow.  Reassure the patient so as to reduce their heart rate.  Ideally, you should never remove the first pad placed on the wound because this disrupts the blood-clotting process.  Consider instead placing a second pad on top of the first.
  • Internal bleeding may be suggested by the signs of shock, and also by blood emerging from any of the body's natural openings.  Internal bleeding cannot be treated by first aiders, save (where the patient is conscious) raising his or her legs to improve blood supply to vital organs.
Conscious patient
  1. Help the casualty into a comfortable position.
  2. If necessary and appropriate, loosen clothing around the casualty's neck, chest and waist to assist them to breathe.
  3. Keep the casualty warm (covered if necessary) and provide reasurance.
  4. Do not provide the casualty with food or drink as this may make later medical care (particularly administering anaesthetics) difficult.  If they become thirsty, moisten their lips with water.
Perform a "secondary survey" to identify further possible injuries.  Working from the head down -
  • Check for anything that suggests a head injury - lumps and bumps, swelling or minor wounds, and also discharges from the ears or nose.  Is the face swollen or discoloured, and have the eyes been affected?
  • Ask the patient to breath deeply to see if discomfort is caused to the neck, shoulders or chest.  Are there signs of swelling, inflammation or fractures.
  • In the patient can be log rolled, are there wounds or abnormalities to their back, and are they complaining of pain.
  • Check the arms and legs for abnormalities or injuries (and also check for any medicalert bracelets).
  • Check the abdomen and pelvis for pain, distension or incontinence
The ideal positions for casualties with certain injuries will be
  • Chest wound: Sitting upright, leaning forward and towards their injured side.
  • Abdominal wound: Lying on their back, with the head and shoulders raised on a pillow (or something similar) and the knees slightly bent (also supported by a pillow or something similar)
  • Burns: These injuries should be cooled and covered with non-adherent dressings. Cooling is best done with cool running water or compresses.
  • Fractures: These injuries should be supported and immobilised.
Unconscious patient

If the casualty is not breathing, check their airway for obstructions.  If they are still not breathing, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use a defibrillator if one is available.

If the casualty regains consciousness, follow the instructions above.  If they remain unconscious but resume normal breathing, move them into the recovery position and attend to any other wounds they have.  If at all possible, remain with them and monitor their breathing and general condition.


I have a second-hand copy of the second edition of Kym Eden's book to give away.  Although it's out of date, there's still good material in it.  If you'd like to claim it, leave me a message in the comments.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A hot weekend

Hi everyone,
Another hot weekend here, although this one was particularly strong.  I think it's the first time since the weather warmed up that we've cracked 104°F/40°C.  It really didn't cool down all of Friday or Saturday nights.
We were under a total fire ban all of Saturday and Sunday, although surprisingly the Fire Ready app on my phone only dinged a few times, and for small fires only.  Which is just as well: You've probably seen on the news that there were large fires at Epping, Ballarat and Wodonga.  The firies had more than enough to be dealing with.

The task on both days was simply to keep cool, hydrated and indoors.  The most activity we managed was to get the truck ready for the old boy to take to the Peninsula yesterday (that is, he left yesterday and we readied the truck the truck on Saturday).  I made a point of giving the dog a number of walks where he could swim in one of the two dams that are still reasonably deep so he could fill his coat with water and cool off.

About 5pm yesterday the cool change blessedly rolled through and brought some very strong winds and a lot of cloud, but really no rain to speak of.  Rain would have been nice, but I understand it tended to fall more where the fires were.  I don't grudge it to them.

Despite all the wind, there was only one callout, to a job in Shepparton where there were sheets of iron flapping loose on the roof of a (possibly abandoned) house; the job was called in by the neighbor.  A couple of roof screws and that was that.

Today has been dead quiet at work: very little to do aside from pay a couple of bills and log a few incoming issues.  Truth is I've spent a large whack of the day catching up on my personal emails.  I've also been pondering a series of emergency response-themed blogposts; watch this space.

More later.  Hope all is well at your end.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Warming up

Hi everyone,

Typing this on my phone in bed on a Saturday morning.  A very hot day has been forecast and I'm hanging onto what will be the coolest part of the day.

Yesterday was another hot day, and also the official holiday closing-day at work. I had some odds-and-ends jobs to do, and at lunch I successfully explored the opp shops to find a walking stick for mum - it's a good step up from the crutch she's using.

Despite the heat, I headed out for a run after work.  It actually wasn't that bad, although my legs felt heavy and tired.  About the only weather-hazard was the bite the sun still had.

Run completed, I came back to the farm.  There were a few chores to do, and I took the dog for a swim so he could cool off.  Sadly, the middle-paddock dam is now very low.  By tomorrow I suspect it'll just be a mud puddle. And we're only partway through summer.

No more for now.  Hope all is well with you

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Grozny to Managua

Today saw another news item that I found encouraging.  A long running border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was adjudicated by the International Court of Justice, with both sides indicating a willingness to abide by the ruling.  The Court's press release explained that Costa Rica had sovereignty over a certain disputed territory, and that by excavating three channels and establishing a military presence on Costa Rican territory, Nicaragua violated that country's sovereignty and navigation rights.  It also determined that Costa Rica had violated general international law in relation to the construction of a particular road.

This news came on the same day as the Red Cross marked its own remembrance day, commemorating "17 December 1996, [when] six Red Cross staff members were killed at a field hospital in Chechnya, in an attack deliberately meant to kill aid workers".  These killings took place in a war zone, and they may have been committed by irregular combatants.  They were a flagrant breach of the laws of war:
The civilian population shall respect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, even if they belong to the adverse Party, and shall commit no act of violence against them. The civilian population and aid societies, such as national Red Cross ... Societies, shall be permitted, even on their own initiative, to collect and care for the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, even in invaded or occupied areas. No one shall be harmed, prosecuted, convicted or punished for such humanitarian acts
[Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, Article 17(1)]
It's too hopeful to suppose that the decisions of Nicaragua and Costa Rica to accept the ICJ's arbitration reflects a respect for international law that was not given to the Red Cross workers in 1996: one would hope that two reasonably sane national governments make better decisions than Chechen militiamen.  International law itself still suffers as much from those who see it as a cure-all for policy decisions they don't like as it does from those who deny it exists at all.  I remain hopeful that the world can settle between those two points, where even recourse to an imperfect legal order is preferred to the recourse to arms.

Eat cookies, not brains!

Hi everyone,

It's been a warm couple of days here.  The current weather system is making the days heat up - it should be 40°C/110°F by the weekend.  There was heavy cloud but no rain a few days ago, and now the clouds are only bits and pieces that give no rain.  Australian summer, I guess.

Tuesday night I was calling on my inner John Besh, making up a gumbo-esque stew out of some venison that had defrosted.  It was a bit of a hodge-podge of the venison, with some added bacon, roux mix, some not-very-good sundried tomatoes in oil, and a couple of strips of bacon.  Oddly, though, I might not get a chance to have any: it cooked all Tuesday evening, and Wednesday evening I was at a work dinner (of which more later).  Tonight is a stand-down/maintenance night at SES, which includes a barbeque.  Hopefully there'll be some I can try afterwards!

Yesterday was a kind of stop-and-start day.  Tuesday night I'd been to a COPS-style callout in Mooroopna (I can't give details because reasons), and so my car was a bit lower in fuel than planned.  The fuel light came on while I was driving to work yesterday, so I bit the bullet and stopped to fuel up at the general store at Toolamba.  The store itself is a genuine country store: the wooden floorboards and rustic style isn't for effect, and it's well suited to its town.

The reason I wasn't keen to stop was that we get gouged for fuel up here at the best of times (as a rule, $1.30-1.50 a litre, which is 20¢-50¢ per litre dearer than Melbourne), and at small outlets even more so.  Yesterday's fuel set me back $2.00 a litre.  The pain in my wallet was only very slightly assuaged by the old-fashioned mechanical dials of the bowser and the knowledge that it was saving me a long walk to Tatura.

I worked up to 2:30 yesterday and then went into Shepparton.  I had some Christmas shopping to do, and also needed to go to H&R Block to get my tax return drawn.  Both of those were accomplished with more or less success.  The town's dressing in holiday style seems a bit more understated this year.  Nice, though.

I had an appointment at the Blood Bank in the afternoon.  I'm oddly proud that my heart rate tested at 48 beats per minute.  I think that almost qualifies me as a zombie, right?  They let me donate anyway, which is probably a good thing because it meant I could sate my semi-undead hunger with a cookie rather than ... brains...

As I said before, we had my work unit's Christmas dinner in the evening.  I wasn't exactly surprised to see that the guy who's been ringing in sick all week managed to muster his energies sufficiently to come and have a good dinner at someone else's expenses.  And yet people wonder why I've become so cynical.  That aside, it was a good dinner and some of the best barramundi I've eaten in ages.

Today I'm light-on for work (again).  I'll duck out to an interview at the SES shed in the afternoon: I put in for the Unit Controller's position, mainly because I thought nobody had applied and felt that it was better that the job be done by someone in-house, rather than an outsider.  I've since heard that at least one other member really wants the job, so I may stand aside in their favour: I certainly don't want it at the cost of cheating one of my friends.  I'll make that clear at the interview and let the higher-ups decide what's best.  The important thing is what serves the unit.

Not much else to note.  I'm hoping I'll be able to squeeze in a run before training tonight.

Hope all's well with you.  More later.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Who upset Queen Elsa? Severe cold weather preparedness

A number of parts of the world are experiencing particularly cold weather conditions at present.  In some areas, even brutally cold weather is not unexpected.  In others, even moderately icy conditions can be a significant hazard .  With that in mind, a post on cold weather preparedness seems worthwhile.

Before the ice sets in

Some long term preparation prior to winter is sensible.  New Zealand's Ministry of Civil Defence recommends having chimneys inspected annually and cleaned when necessary.  The same agency recommends having your home properly insulated and caulking doors and windows against cold air.  The International Civil Defence Organization (ICDO) suggests fitting out a particularly well insulated room (ideally without windows) as a living room for your family.

Additional supplies should be laid in.  You might want to consider buying emergency heating equipment (like a kerosene heater), and ensuring you have adequate supplies of fuel for both your standard and emergency means of heating.  Remember to consider means of ventilation to prevent toxic fumes building up.  You might also want to consider acquiring a generator, and if you have livestock or pets, consider whether you have enough food for them.

Image from here

Water pipes are at particular risk during freezing temperatures.  They can be protected by wrapping them in insulating material (layered newspaper if necessary) and then wrapping them in plastic.  Ensure you are able to close the main water valve if necessary.

The ICDO strongly recommends also ensuring that your car carries a spade, snow chains, a torch, spare clothes and other emergency supplies.

During a cold snap

When a below-zero snap is imminent, drain the water and central hearing pipes to reduce the risk of damage should they freeze.  Move livestock to shelter (whether this is a treed area or a building) and ensure they have sufficient feed and water.  While undertaking activity, ensure that you eat regularly and drink ample fluids.  Avoid coffee and alcohol which tend to dehydrate you.

Avoid opening doors and windows in your house for as long as possible, so as to retain warmth as long as possible,.

If you need to travel, exercise such are as the conditions require.  It may be prudent to stick to main roads, ensure others are aware of your movements, and if necessary fit tyre chains.  Keeping a full fuel tank will prevent ice in the fuel tank and lines, and ensure that the battery and antifreeze levels have been checked.  The Jordanian Civil Defence Directorate particularly recommends keeping a safe distance from the car in front.

Image from here

If things go wrong

Monitor yourself and others for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.  Frostbite requires medical attention and may be indicated by numbness and paleness in the fingers, toes, ear lobes, and nose.  Hypothermia is suggested by severe shivering, loss of normal cognitive skills and apparent exhaustion.  Medical care is needed, but in the first instance the sufferer should be made warm and given a warm non-alcoholic drink.

Where your water pipes have frozen remove any insulation and wrap them in rags.  Turn the taps on and begin to pour warm water over the pipes from whatever appears to be the coldest point.

If you have been in your car and become stranded, remain in the vehicle.  Ventilate it by opening a window on the sheltered side.  It may be safest not to run the engine if you are trapped in snow, as a blocked- or partly blocked exhaust  pipe may lead to buildup of carbon monoxide fumes.  Keep your limbs, hands and feet moving and avoid sleeping because of the risk of frostbite.

Image from here

Following a cold snap

If you are able, check for people in your area who may be in difficulties and if necessary alert the authorities.  If the electricity has gone out, check that the system at your house is in working order before restoring power.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Adventures in Orange

Hi everyone,

Sorry I haven't been much talking about my adventures in orange lately.  Bizarre, right, considering what a large whack of my life it is!

Well, first up, last weekend we had the second half of the Road Crash Rescue course.  The people from the Tatura unit went down well prepared: we'd all been getting into the theory questions (you would have seen the ones I drew up posted here for each of the relevant chapters).  The more experienced members had also helped us out by supervising some extra RCR training at the unit in the week beforehand.  One evening we spent getting the nearside doors off of a wrecked car -

The other evening we did some further cuts and competed a forward roof flap.  I think our only real weakness was being really focussed on doing it right, so there was quite a bit of discussion before anything was undertaken.

Be that as it may, we went down well prepared fore the second weekend.  Both days were formidably hot, especially as everybody was wearing full PPC/E.  One the second day I got an object lesson in the quality of German engineering when my group was tasked with getting the doors off a Mercedes Benz and rolling the dash.  I can tell you those hinges didn't break easily!

I'm afraid I don't have any photos from the assessment itself.  I passed, but I wasn't rapt by my performance:  Too much discussion and disagreement about how to get the set tasks done, and not acting as one should do on a crash site.  On the other hand, the next day was a bit restorative when I found myself part of the three-man crew going out to this accident.  This crew consisted of one experienced member and one member who had been on the road crash course with me the previous day.  I'm proud to say we performed well: we barely needed to even speak to each other to stabilise the car, get sharps protection in place, and work with the crewleader to get the driver's door off and assist the ambulance officers to get her out.  We did our work well.

Police girgarre crash
Image from here

There was some humour when we got back to the shed and it was noticed that in my haste to change out of my suit and into my overalls I'd left my tie dangling over the wing mirror of one of the other vehicles.  People asked if someone had been with a lady in there!

Yesterday some of us from various SES units went down to Kilmore to do storm-safety awareness with officers from the Country Fire Authority, who were doing fire awareness.  Happily, the Unit loaned me some wheels for the day -

I was interested to find that Black Saturday casts quite a long shadow.  There were quite a few people who hadn't turned their minds to what they'd do in the event of a fire, but there were many who had already decided whether they would stay and fight the fire (and were tooled up to do it) or woud evacuate.  Of the latter, only a couple had emergency kits prepared, but most assured us they were able to get out of the area at the drop of a hat.  Everyone knew how to locate fire danger ratings.

Interestingly, none of them had boiled their fire plan down to "call the CFA and leave it at that".  There seemed genuine awareness that the authorities may be too overstretched to help in a major fire event.

I was going around the houses with a CFA member, and each of us explained to householders what we needed to.  As we were in his vehicle, I had a chance to listen to the CFA radio chatter.  The impression I get is that SES's training is probably more technical than CFA's, and we can be asked to do a wider range of things, but that you could never accuse the firies of being slackers.  The chatter on the radio was almost constant and I got the impression that in the fire season they don't get much time to rest.  I'm certainly glad they're there.

No more to add for now.  I think that's got you caught up.  Normal service should be resumed tomorrow!