Upper West Side CERT

What Being Prepared Looks Like

By Ian Alterman

Ian Alterman

Talk about right place, right time.

I was walking down Broadway yesterday when I noticed a man, probably in his thirties, standing in front of a store. He looked to be in distress. As I got closer, I saw his head jerk upward, and his eyes roll back in his head. I knew he was going to fall backward, but that I would not reach him before he did.

A young woman also noticed, and rushed over, catching him just before his head hit the sidewalk. Meanwhile, I was already on the phone with 911. The man had gone into some sort of convulsion, possibly epileptic. The woman put her hands on either side of his head, just as another woman rushed over, did a quick check, and found a MedicAlert bracelet on his wrist. While this was happening, I was on the phone with 911.

Happily, since those of us in the radio pilot program have been learning how to provide incident details quickly, I was able to use my new found skills to convey all the necessary details in three short sentences: location, description of incident, description of subject. The 911 operator only asked a single question (my phone number), and then transferred me directly to an EMT. I gave him a concise synopsis. He said they were on their way, but to call if anything changed.

While I was on the phone, I noticed that the first woman holding the man’s head also checked his watch, and the other woman kept talking to him calmly. The spasmodic episode had only lasted about 90 seconds, so he was conscious, but remained prone.

When I got off the phone, I asked the two women if they were nurses. It turns out that the first woman to arrive on the scene was a nurse practitioner, and the second was a doctor. I mentioned to the first woman that I had noticed her check the man’s watch, and asked if she did that in case he was having a stroke. She said yes, and then she asked how I knew, and where I had learned to provide emergency details so concisely. After a few moments of chat, we all realized that this young man could not have been in better hands just as his episode began: a nurse practitioner, a doctor, and a CERT member trained to provide emergency details quickly and effectively.

I guess if there is a lesson here it is that we never know when and how our skills may be tested and used, so it is always important to review and hone them.

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