Monday, December 28, 2009

Friendly Skies

Fallout from the Christmas Day underwear bomber:
NY Times -- A businessman ... said he was shocked to have a female flight attendant barge in on him in the restroom while he was washing his face during a flight from Seoul. "It was kind of weird, to have a lady try to get in," he said. "She said that they had to watch people being in the restroom too long."
Lesson: Don't get constipated on an international flight.

Maybe they should just ban loo visits altogether. Fun facts:
"Many of the ingredients for explosive mixtures, such as potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate and phosphorus, were originally manufactured from putrefied urine." --
"The process of making gunpowder ... Saltpeter was originally extracted by mixing barnyard wastes, the soil under privies, or bat guano." --
Another incident:
CNN -- On August 28, the Saudi Arabian deputy minister of interior, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, survived a bombing attack ... The would-be assassin ... concealed the bomb... in his underwear.
 Actually, it wasn't the underwear, exactly. It's said he got through security because he had it in his rectum.

(The Friendly Skies are about to get a whole lot friendlier.)

Here's what the "Skating on Stilts" blog had to say about that:
How did the terrorist manage to set off the explosives? Well, he was allowed to call Yemen just before the explosion, so it seems likely that his accomplices in that country used a cell phone as a detonator.

Yes, it's true. Al Qaeda is now reduced to making booty calls.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Blue Xmas

Crap. There's a callout for a missing 11-year old girl in Salisbury. It's only 2.5 hours away, but we send a minimum of 2 people, and no one else has stepped up. Most of our members are students, and probably home for winter break.

Right now, it's 28 degrees there -- 19 with wind chill -- and it'll be colder tonight, and raining all day tomorrow. Not a good time to be lost.

Update, 12:35 pm
Double crap. This might be a cadaver search.
Sex Offender Charged in Kidnapping of Md. Girl, Authorities Say

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One Flu Over the EMS

Y'ever notice how many things are described as having "flu-like symptoms"? lists 129 medications that can have flu-like side-effects, and (once I filtered out the duplicates and minor variations), 58 different maladies, including:
Bowel Bypass Syndrome
Cat Scratch Fever
Fire ant bite
Food poisoning
Hodgkin's Disease
Legionnaires' Disease
Lyme Disease
Metal Fume Fever
Sandfly Fever
Slap-Cheek Syndrome
Systemic Capillary Leak Syndrome
Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis
So don't worry if you get swine or bird flu symptoms: it might be something totally different.

In any case, that's background for the following news story from the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS):
LOWELL, MA, Dec. 7 - Expect discussion by the City Council Tuesday night regarding a policy ... under [which] dispatchers have stopped sending firefighters to medical calls where flu might be present ... [Fire Chief Edward] Pitta said he does not want firefighters compromising their health by responding to 911 medical calls for flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath associated with flu, and sore chest associated with cough."
But what if it's Slap-Cheek Syndrome?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Live-blogging from the H1N1 Clinic

11:00 AM
"So, what is DisasterMan doing today? Saving sturdy buildings from fire-breathing kittens? Rescuing the homeless from homes? Searching for 'Lost' DVDs for the homebound?"

"Putting baby powder in his super-tight spandex suit, in a vain attempt to grow babies?"

Why, yes! All those things -- and more! I'm also sitting on my butt in some bleachers at a high school, waving the occasional family in a direction that's already obvious, to go get their H1N1 flu shots.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cracking the Codes

Under the National Incident Management System (NIMS), people are supposed to avoid use of acronyms and 10 codes on the radio, such as 10-4. (Though that one is probably OK). They vary too much from department to department, which inhibits communication in joint operations.

They also can vary a wee bit in severity. For example, 10-89 can mean a bomb threat, but for the Salt Lake County Sheriff, it means stolen bicycle. Other examples:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Alphabet Soup

Under the National Incident Management System (NIMS), use of acronyms is supposed to be avoided, because they vary between agencies and can be unclear. Instead, people are told to just speak plainly.

FEMA still has a ways to go on that. These are from FEMA documents:

"... After-Action Report (AAR) for the Top Officials (TOPOFF) 4 Full-Scale Exercise (FSE) ... composed at the After-Action Conference (AAC) ...

"TOPOFF 4 (T4) - The T4 FSE used a radiological dispersal device (RDD) scenario based on National Planning Scenario (NPS) ... As observed in T3 ... departments and agencies (D/As) ...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Live-blogging Gatekeeper

8:00 a.m.
Got up at about 5:30 to go in for this emergency exercise. Had to to get here by 7 am.

Police command post RV, flashing signs say exercise... looks like the right place, but I don't see our contact yet. He's no doubt part of an elite, highly-trained, can-kill-you-27-ways-with-their-bare-hands, emergency, anti-terrorism strike force at the ... let's see... DC Dept of Transportation. Hmm... Maybe no M16s this time, but I might get to use one of those stop/go traffic direction signs. Watch out bin Laden; no going 30 in a 20 mph zone while I'm here!

9:30 a.m.
Two of us volunteers showed up, but the other one bailed, because we weren't going to get to do traffic control; we're being assigned to the Police Dept. instead. Yeah, that really sux; traffic control sounds so much more exciting.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Celebrating The Big Rumble "This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. The Big Rumble commemorates the anniversary with a week-long series of special events designed to connect our communities with preparedness resources."

Wikipedia: "The Loma Prieta earthquake killed 63 people ... injured 3,757, and left some 3,000, 8,000, 10,000, or 12,000 people homeless. ... During the earthquake, the [Cyprus Viaduct] freeway buckled and twisted ... and sent the upper deck crashing to the lower deck. In an instant, 41 people were crushed to death in their cars." "... folks all over the City of San Francisco will be rolling out their barbeques and world famous potato salads and throwing their own 'Where Were You in '89' Neighborhood Block Party -- and so should you! ...we have a Block Party Host Toolkit with tons of great tips on how to throw the perfect bash..."

Woo hoo! How about a Jello "cake" with a house of cards and little figurines on top? And games like, "Stomp on the Hot Wheels track!"

BTW, what's the deal with those homeless numbers? "7,500, margin of error: 60%"?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tornado Warning

It was raining cats and dogs this afternoon. (Now we have dead pets everywhere.) It occurred to me, as I looked out the window, that I am, after all, a SKYWARN storm spotter for the National Weather Service. Maybe I ought to call in, so the people in Building 2 know what it's like over at Building 4.

But I didn't. And maybe I should have, so they'd get the news earlier. See this warning below? It says it was sent at 7:07, and I received it at 7:18.
------ Original Message ------
Received: 07:07 PM EDT, 08/21/2009
From: "Alert Montgomery"

The National Weather Service has issued a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING for Montgomery County until 7:15. Doppler radar indicated a thunderstorm approaching the County which has intensified well past severe limits.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ebola Follies, Part 2

[Click here to read Ebola Follies, Part 1.]

I finally took the time to finish "The Hot Zone," the book about the Ebola outbreak in Reston, VA in 1989-'90. I'll relate it with some snippets:
"...USAMRIID [U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases] concluded Ebola can spread through the air."

"When he talked to the Washington Post reporters... he was careful not to use scary military terms like 'amplification,' 'lethal chain of transmission,' 'crash and bleed,' or 'major pucker factor.'"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ebola Follies, Part 1

I'm reading "The Hot Zone," a book about an actual Ebola outbreak in the DC area. (I hate it when that happens.) It was about 20 years ago, and started at a monkey house in Reston. ("Which one?" you ask? Reston has so many.)

Monkeys imported to the U.S. were quarantined for a month, to make sure they weren't carrying a disease. After an unusual number started dying, the company vet sent samples to U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Maryland. "Samples," meaning a test tube and chunks of monkey flesh in aluminum foil.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Carrot Bombs

From the BBC:

Carrots cause Swedish bomb scare

The carrot bombs had been placed around the city at the request of a local art gallery, as part of an open-air arts festival. They had only been in place for an hour before police received their first call. ...

Mr Blom described it as a harmless stunt. "After all, it is just carrots with an alarm clock and nothing else... this is just a caricature of a bomb," he said.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Moats, Ducks, and Nappies

First, some background:

BBC: MP expenses row explained

Most MPs have to live in two places -- in their constituencies and in London where they attend Parliament. They are allowed to claim expenses to cover the cost of running a second home. Details of what has been claimed on second home expenses have never been revealed before the Daily Telegraph got hold of a leaked copy of all the claims. Many MPs have been accused of extravagance, of over-claiming and avoiding tax on home sale.
Now, for the Front Lines/Homeland Security angle:
Douglas Hogg -- who repaid £2,200 [$3,433] apparently claimed for clearing a moat at his country estate -- says he will not fight the next election. [What, nothing for boiling oil?]

The tourism minister claimed £25,411.64 [$40,000] for security patrols at her London home after she was mugged.
Because so many terrorists target the tourism minister. It's not about ordinary crime, of course, because London is a safe place for tourists to visit. Really.

Not security-related, but thrown in for entertainment value:
A Tory MP is to retire after admitting he claimed a £1,645 [$2,567] 'duck island' on expenses - as two Labour ministers face questions over capital gains tax.

The Telegraph suggested the immigration minister had claimed for nappies and women's clothing when submitting requests for expenses. It said it was unclear how these items had been justified because parliamentary rules only allowed payouts for items which were 'exclusively' for MPs' own use.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Patriotic Booze

An e-mail I recieved:
From: "Jim Beam"
Subject: Introducing The Commemorative Operation Homefront Special Edition Bottle

Just in time for Military Appreciation Month, Jim Beam® is honoring America's heroes with limited-edition bottles of its No. 1-selling Bourbon. ... The specialty bottles will hit the shelves on May 25th, Memorial Day, and they'll be available through the Fourth of July. Each bottle will be wrapped with a custom label bearing the stars-and-stripes logo of Operation Homefront.

So, are you going to buy a bottle? Or do you hate freedom?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Search for a Blind Hiker

The Potomac Valley Rescue Group (PVRG) deployed a team of five volunteers (including DisasterMan) to join a search for a missing hiker in George Washington National Forest. The hiker, a legally blind, 41-year-old male, was found uninjured three days after the search began. Photos

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ridiculous EMS Calls

The Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) asked readers, "What's the funniest, wierdest, best, or worst call you've ever responded to?" Here are some responses:
  • "I found out that the little boy had stuck Christmas lights up his nose. He and his brother wanted to see if they could see them blink."
  • "We had one the other day for a woman who called 911 because her nipples were sore. (Maybe from the guy who called with chapped lips.)"
  • "A buddy of mine got a 911 call for an unknown problem. Upon arriving on scene the patient was upset about lint, yes LINT, in their bellybutton."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Frozen Monkey Heads

From the NY Daily News:

The Weird and Wacky Stuff Confiscated at New York Customs

Attention, airline passengers: Leave the chain saws, chocolate-covered heroin bars and frozen monkey heads at home.

An Australian traveler made worldwide headlines last month when he tried to smuggle two live pigeons past airport security by concealing them against his legs under a pair of tights.

Customs and Transportation Security Administration officials at New York airports say they have just as many wacky tales to tell.

In recent months, agents have seized everything from a drug-stuffed dead cat to a 7-pound shipment of chocolate-coated heroin bars.