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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

National Preparedness Month - Choosing Emergency Contacts

Peter Shankman first alerted me to this article by PhreeZone about what to consider when choosing an emergency contact. Both of these guys are skydivers, so the article is written in that context, but the points to consider are just as valid for any person. Something important to consider during National Preparedness Month:

"One of the things that all most every Dropzone or Boogie waiver has is a space to list an Emergency contact. Most jumpers just fill this information in with the first relative or friends name that pops into their head as they fill out the waiver, but jumpers should fill this section out after carefully selecting a contact. Jumpers should put as much thought into this decision as they do into what type of jumpsuit they are going to buy or what their next boogie is going to be.

There are criteria that make people better emergency contacts then others and jumpers should keep this in mind as they make their selection. Potential emergency contacts should meet the following criteria at a minimum:

1) Potential emergency contacts need to be aware of any medical issues or conflicts that you might have. If someone is allergic to something and forgets to put it on their waiver the emergency contact might just be the last line of defense there is to prevent the emergency responders from giving them a potentially dangerous drug or drug combinations.

2) Emergency contacts should have phone numbers to your immediate family members rapidly available so they may inform your loved ones about any potential incidents that might have happened. Poor choices for emergency contacts include people that have never met you or your family before you visit the DZ. At a minimum your emergency contact should have the phone number to contact the person that you would want to be notified of your injury or death first.

3) Another trait that makes a good emergency contact is choosing someone that is not at the airport the same time you are. In the case of something like a plane crash or canopy entanglement you might be involved in the incident with potential emergency contacts. By choosing someone that is not involved in skydiving or at the airport at all you maximize the availability of contacts that DZ personal might be able to reach in the case of an emergency on the dropzone.

4) Contacts should be someone that will be able to initially handle receiving potentially devastating news about you. Choosing someone that is known to be extremely emotional over the phone might be a poor choice as a contact if the Dropzone or medical teams need to ask questions of the emergency contact. Choose someone that will be able to calmly answer any potential questions after being informed that you are injured or worse.

5) Having multiple methods of contacting emergency contacts makes the task of reaching the emergency contact a lot easier for the dropzone personal. Emergency contacts should have at least one phone number and if possible multiple phones. List every phone number in the order that they should be called. Listing mobile numbers, home numbers and work numbers should all be done at a minimum to insure the maximum possibility of reaching someone in a true emergency.

Other things that should be used as criteria in potential emergency contacts include knowing who might be on vacation and out of reach at the time of certain boogies, knowing which contacts will be available to rapidly travel to deal with incidents if they happen, and in the case of international jumpers knowing the time difference and how that is going to affect the ability to contact your potential contact.

Using these criteria to choose an emergency contact will increase the probability that the dropzone personal will be able to reach and inform people of emergencies involving you, plus it will reduce the anxiety factor on the dropzone staff side in contacting people if they know they will not have to end up calling 10 people to reach someone that has needed answers about you."

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