Day in the Fields: Volunteering at the Special Olympics NA Golf Tournament

I’m taking a task-less moment to document the fun I’ve been having. This is Day Two of my volunteering gig I got with the Emergency Management Group-Washington who is deployed to support the North American Golf Championship for the Special Olympics.

20170626_145441.jpgYesterday, I was on the Seattle campus of University of Washington (UW) in a little conference room in the basement of a faraway building watching various monitors and chasing details. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) takes note of potential threats, plans, daily schedules, contact information for liaising groups, keeps radios charged, and holds first aid equipment for off duty med staffers. It is the information hub and it’s run–today at least–by 4 hardworking, always cheerful, and ever-dedicated women and overseen by the experienced and knowledgeable Director who sometimes drops by to fix the wobbly internet. I sat at a long table with my tiny laptop and watched TweetDeck (our Twitter aggregator) update languidly. I delved deep into the hinterlands of NOAA to find the exact right weather report for tomorrow. (We need to tell the med tent if they should expect heat stroke). I listened to a UW representative who had dropped by for a radio describe what their crisis management office was up to. It was a quiet day–pretty much ideal for our line of work.

20170628_120624Today, I’m following the Director around on the golf course itself. We’re mostly based at the med tent which is staffed with two doctors and two EMTs on golf carts. It’s very quiet today and comfortably cool. We’ve had some radio problems, but otherwise all is running smoothly.

While we are here to protect the health and safety of the athletes and volunteers, we’re also treating this as a practice run for The Special Olympics golf tournament in 2018 which will see thousands more athletes, and many more spectators and volunteers. We’re collecting notes and opinions about the event to include in an After Action Report which will help us plan next year better.

We take a break in the clubhouse (where there’s power outlets) to gather some information. Yesterday, we heard about a townhall meeting being hosted on the UW campus concerning an incendiary social-justice topic. There might be protesters which line or block the path our athletes were going to use to get home tonight. No one is expecting the protectors to be violent, but we’ve also seen how these things quickly escalate and it’s our job to be extra safety-conscious especially since we’re supporting our own sometimes-vulnerable population. So the leadership staff spent last evening developing an alternate transportation plan and today, the Director made the finishing touches and sent it out to all his staff. My job was to research and verify the protest (we’d heard conflicting reports). I felt all my Millenial training come to my aid–finally it was good for something–as I scoured the internet for signs of unrest. Exactly one of the words I reported made it into the plan. And it was paraphrased.

Still, I like contributing. I’m learning a lot and am grateful for the opportunity to meet my ilk. Here’s to those behind the scenes. Great job.

Update: Nothing happened at the protests. The athletes were walked home via a different path and didn’t even seem to notice the change. I’m glad.



Mastering My Environment

I’d like to apologize for my extended sabbatical. This summer has been a test in personal resiliency. First, I got sick for a long time, then my beloved pet disappeared (and never reappeared), and then–as my thesis picked up again–I began having wrist pain which prevented me from typing more than I absolutely had to.

But now, as we are deluged in autumnal rains headed toward the holidays, I’m feeling healthier and more cheerful for two reasons. 1. a new kitten and 2. a new book.

We got Ollie at 6 weeks and it is a delight to watch him grow. At first, he was so little that he could just barely jump high enough to hook his claws into our blanket and climb up to the bed. Now, he can jump straight to the top from about two feet away. Sometimes he would trip over his feet chasing after a string. Now, his body courses gracefully (mostly…we have slippery floors). Ollie has mastered his environment. He is confident, intelligent, curious, and adept. There is a simple beauty and a deep satisfaction that accompanies watching a masterful creature.


My wrist pain–you might have guessed–was tendinitis and muscle spasm from working too much at the computer + knitting + playing games on my phone. I’ve always had bad posture, so–suspecting that had something to do with it–I went looking for information on body mechanics and physical therapy. I found this book: Pain Free by Egoscue & Gittines. It’s major tenant is that we tend to put our load bearing joints out of alignment with each other. The longer they stay that way, the more muscles designed for holding you upright go into atrophy which causes your body to compensate with other, lesser muscles. For instance, when you hunch at your desk or slouch over your phone, your shoulders are not square with your hips which mispositions your elbow which makes the stabilizing muscles in your wrist do work they aren’t designed for–the heavy lifting of your palm and fingers causing your tendons to rub and get inflamed (if your wrist was using the right flexor/extensor muscles, the tendons would be lined up properly and not rubbing anywhere when you move your fingers). And there you have it, carpal tunnel syndrome caused by slouching. The book also outlines simple yoga-type poses to get the right muscles back to doing the right jobs. Like all physical therapy, you have to do the work, but it usually feels so good and refreshing afterward, that I don’t mind putting in the time. And now I get to write again!

But the combined experiences of watching my cat’s prowess while finding myself unable to hold my torso upright properly was humbling. I am not master of my environment.

On the other hand–paraphrasing Egoscue–movement begets movement. Once I began doing the exercises, I began feeling better, then I wanted to move more, and now I find myself naturally watching less TV and doing more projects. Soon my body will be a useful tool again instead of just somewhere to live. Without any cardio or strength training, I feel more balanced, more agile, and more flexible. I–like my kitten–am growing in confidence.

Sometimes, we may feel puny, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the capacity for strength.

Disaster Boot Camp: Take Stock

Last time on EMscholar’s Disaster Boot Camp, we learned about hazards in our areas. Follow along as our heroes confront these fearsome predators. 

Welcome to Part 2 of my Disaster Boot Camp series. This series is based on the following principles:

  1. Every little bit helps.
  2. Everything I do has to be relatively quick, cheap, and pain free. Or else I probably won’t do it.
  3. Prepping should be part of everyday choices. It’s about making every choice work on two levels: practicality and resiliency.
  4. Prepping is a work in progress. We’re never “finished”.
  5. Since there will always be something you haven’t prepared for, prepping is about building mental flexibility and practical skills. And having the right tools on hand, of course.
  6. There’s no shame or guilt with prepping. Like a fitness program, these blogs are about starting wherever you are and finding a community to support you.
  7. There’s no fear with prepping. I, personally, don’t subscribe to the ultra-militant, us-against-the-world prepping mentality. Studies have shown that people tend to resort to pro-social, community-oriented behaviors in a disaster aftermath. I’m all about connecting people with each other because we’re stronger together. I also don’t believe in scaring people in order to get them to prepare. I believe in stating the facts unequivocally and describing solutions with a cautiously-optimistic outlook.

I also want to stress that this “Boot Camp” is not the “best” way of prepping. It’s not even that original. What it is, is my story. It’s resources, tips, trains of thought, and advice that I’ve found helpful. I intend for this blog to amplify the voices that are already teaching these things, not to supplant them. I would also be thrilled if you joined in below.

Ready? Let’s go!

series 2c

Goal 2: Take stock of present resourcesAKA: making a ton of lists.

1. Organize your thoughts with survival categories: Do1Thing, the Red Cross, and FEMA all approach this a little differently, but they add up to the following list of needs:

Evacuation Plan, Family Communication Plan, water, food, shelter, clothing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs include work gloves, hard hat, sturdy shoes, etc), signaling supplies (flares, mirror, whistle), fire making supplies, power back ups (generator, batteries, etc), First Aid,  personal prescriptions (ex: insulin, heart meds), pet supplies, tech readiness, document backups, duct tape and hand tools (for fixing house damage or turning off your water main), family/disaster specific supplies (ex: diapers, antiviral mask), off-the-grid navigation (maps, compass), and some off-the-grid entertainment.

How you approach each of these needs will depend on whether you’re making an evacuation backpack (“Bug-out-bag”), an office kit, a car kit, or a shelter-in-place kit (i.e. camping in your house). Ideally, we’ll be making all of these.

2. Take a tour of your house: I began with a quick tour of my house and car and noted things that could be appropriated to the cause and areas where I needed improvement. I found that I already had the beginnings of a car kit and stocked pantry, so I organized my list based on kit needs. Maybe you would find it easiest to organize your lists based on the survival categories or most urgent needs first. The key here is: you’ll be continually adding to this list as you think of things/learn more. You can see how many question marks are on my list which require more research on my part.

Screenshot of my list.
Screenshot of my list. Yellow are things I still need; white are things I have. I’ve grey-ed out the “Work Kit” because I don’t work away from home. It’s a low priority right now.

Download the full list here: EMscholar’s Emergency Kit Master List

Level Up: don’t forget to backup your list somewhere. It’d be nice if it was on the internet so you can add to it from anywhere as you think of things.

As I took stock, I realized I needed to make a few more lists, so I’m putting this all on a publically-viewable Trello board to keep myself organized. I like having something online because I can access it from anywhere as I think of things. Also, I like that you can move things around in Trello and attach pictures or links.

3. Note your skills: Take a moment to think about how much you know and what you still need to learn. For instance, I’m an ok gardener (room for improvement) and a fair sewer. Those skills could help me be more resilient long term (see my Long-term self-sufficiency list here). I’ve also taken a first aid class and a CPR class, though it might be time for a refresher.I can also drive stick shift. One summer, I forced my Sister-in-Law to teach me because I didn’t want to be stranded somewhere unable to drive the only vehicle available. Later that same year, I needed to drive stick or be stuck walking. On the other hand, I’m terrible with knots. It’s going on the “To Learn” list. Knots are useful for everything including sheltering, snaring food, tying a tourniquet, securing an animal…. I’d also like to learn more about edible plants in my area.

4. Make a 10-Minute To Do List: I’ve been inspired lately by this post from Backdoor Survival which lists easy 10 minute prepping projects by real preppers. Things like: rinse out soda bottles and fill with water, collect dryer lint in a sandwich bag for fire starting, buy an extra can every shopping day for your survival pantry, leave your bug-out-bag out somewhere and put stuff into it as you think of it, make an altoid tin fishing kit, practice lighting a fire, turning off your gas main, or cooking over a camping stove, and more.

Unfortunately, it’s likely that a few important preps will take longer than 10 minutes, but often getting started is half the battle. Use your easy list to build momentum for your harder list.

5. Keep researching: I’m sure I’ve left some gaps in my kit lists. That’s why it’s a work-in-progress. I’ll keep researching and you feel free to add things I’ve missed to the comment section below!

Whew! Good work everyone.

Researcher on the Road: Survivability

Yesterday, we stopped in on our friends at the Washington State Emergency Management Division at Camp Murray.


They graciously gave us a tour of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and it was So. Cool. Downstairs, it’s dark and empty and very quiet. The whole bottom floor is dedicated to disaster management. There’s cubicles where the search and rescue teams sit, there’s a tiny kitchen, lots of binders, files, and posters filed neatly. If you turn left you’ll see an assuming door entering into the main, super-cool part.

EOC proper looks like a modern version of the Mission Control room in Apollo 13. Giant screens line one wall (tuned to CNN or a slide show presentation as needed, I’m told). 5 tvs sit side by side in each corner of the room. Giant whiteboards have today’s wi-fi password on it and big, clean spaces ready for writing. Maps of all sorts serve as functional decoration on free surfaces. Way, way up there’s windows looking down on us. That’s the Planning Room where the state authorities and FEMA have a birds-eye view.

Desks are broken up into pods, but don’t have any cubicle walls to impede communication. I could imagine people milling about and shouting across the room to one another. But maybe there’s more decorum during a disaster than that.

None of these people were here when I visited. This is "activated" status.
None of these people were here when I visited. This is “activated” status.

Opposite the giant screens on the one side are several rooms. One is a super secret communications room that we’re not allowed to see. A few look like nondescript offices. And the largest one sprawling importantly in the middle is the Alert and Warning Center (AWC). It’s the only room on the whole floor with anyone in it today, it seems like.

WA state AWC
WA state AWC. Sorry for the substandard pic. It’s pretty dim in there!

It’s staffed, I’m told, 24/7 and is responsible for monitoring the entire state for trouble. I’m shown the computers with steady green dots on a map–tsunami detectors off the coast. Nearby are lahar monitors, muted CNN on tv’s, maps, equipment I don’t understand, and–in the center–a little tabletop shelf where all of the state’s procedures are laid open. The AWC serves as the primary warning point for everything including: civil disturbances, earthquakes, forest fires, dam failure, floods, severe weather, lahars, landslides, HazMat incidents, terrorist attacks, tsunamis, and radiological accidents. So there’s a lot on that little tabletop shelf.

The building itself, I discovered–as we were ushered reluctantly out–is build on “base isolators” or giant bearings that sit in a concrete bowl shaped like a tiny half-pipe. Base Isolators let the building stay straight up instead of swaying and toppling during an earthquake. (Left pic courtesy of 21Century Builders. Right, courtesy KPFF Consulting Engineers who built the WA state EOC isolators and discuss it here.)

The official FAQ sheet I picked up on my way out says that the “building [was] designed…with the primary goal of survivability, particularly in the event of an earthquake. Building designed to continue to operate with minimal damage following a 1000 year earthquake” (italics/bold in original). A “1000 year earthquake” refers to the size  of the earthquake and the probability of it’s occurring, not the duration. It’s so big that we have to talk about it’s chances of happening in thousands of years. Cities, for example, often plan for a “100 year flood” which is a flood with 1% chance of happening in any given year. (Here’s more if you want to understand the math of that.) So a 1000 year earthquake is a really devastating one. This building will stand when everything around it is completely gone. And the people in it will still be working at saving lives from the rubble.

That’s somehow comforting, no?

Researcher on the Road: Step One

I have joined up with strangers from New Zealand and run away to the coast.

We drove many hours through city traffic, beautiful rain forest, and blooming marshland.
We drove many hours through city traffic, beautiful rain forest, and blooming marshland.

Drs. Johnston and Orchiston from Massey University in New Zealand are studying tsunami risk perception on the Washington State coast and I and Kimberley Cowrin (Geology student from Boise State) are helping. They’ve come all the way here because New Zealand has a very similar fault and socio-economic population who are also thinking about tsunami mitigation. (Anyone remember the NZ Christchurch earthquake? It’s what we like to call a “focusing event”.)

Washington State, Oregon, and California are putting together a joint earthquake-tsnunami disaster drill ominously called “Cascadia Rising” and I want to know the people who are participating. So I came too. Besides, I should learn how research works, no?

While the Cascadia Rising drill and this research project aren’t really connected, they are studying the same scenario and involve a few of the same people.

Here it is: Washington et al sit on the North American Plate while most of the Pacific Ocean sits on the Pacific Plate. There’s a tiny Juan de Fuca plate in the middle getting squished and pushing under the North American Plate.

The Juan de Fuca plate is an oceanic plate which is denser and smaller so it's getting pushed under the North American Plate.
The little black arrows on the map point to which plate is going on top. Volcanoes form on the top plate, so you can remember how to read the map by thinking of the little black arrows as volcanoes. Pic courtesy of Cascadia Earthquake Work Group. who explains this all in more detail.

The Juan de Fuca plate is an oceanic plate which is denser and smaller so it’s getting pushed under the North American Plate. That area with the black arrows is called the Cascadia Subduction Zone. They say that eventually a large earthquake will hit there just off the coast and cause a tsunami. Unfortunately, it will all happen so fast that the authorities won’t have time to sound the tsunami alarms, so people who live on the coast have to know that if there’s shaking, they move to higher ground whether they hear warnings or not. So we’re running focus groups to see whether these small towns know these things or not.

We've been at the Long Beach and South Beach communities so far.
We’ve been at the Long Beach and South Beach communities so far. Pic courtesy of Wa Coast tourism.

The towns are small and double or triple in size during peak tourist season. There’s clam digging, kyacking, fishing, shopping, beaching, and more. The towns are also built on sand which will most likely sink and flood during an earthquake. (Sinking, flooding, and liquefaction are all a little different, but all amount to impassable roads).

This is an
This is an “Inundation Map” which scientists use to show how far the tsunami water might come up. Pic courtesy of Esri geohazards maps.

Unfortunately, some people might have to travel 30 or more miles to a safe zone on roads which may not exist after an earthquake. Most of the all-year residents are elderly. All of this makes for a pretty gnarly problem (as our So. Cal friends say). In fact, many people we talked to cited a wide ranging apathy about tsunami evacuation. As one retiree said, the last time the alarms sounded, we went to the bar and had a drink. Where were we going to go?

There’s a tension in Emergency Management between delivering realistic, sobering information and frightening the public into nihilism. When people believe their actions don’t matter, they won’t take any (as the retiree so playfully illustrated). We talked to many civilian activists committed to changing that perspective in their community.

Inevitably, as we share these facts, someone in the focus group will say, “then what’s the point? It sounds like we’re all dead no matter what we do.” Then Dr. Johnston will lean forward and share the story about a study that was done on the most recent Japanese tsunami. Every step taken upwards or inland reduces your risk, he says. Sure, you might not outrace “The Big One”, but it might not be the big one this time. You can never tell. And since Tsunami waves reduce in size and power exponentially the further in land they get, you could maybe outrun this one. If you got up. Every step makes a difference, he says.  A few people nod to themselves.

Later, I stand around with our host Emergency Manager watching our focus group filing out. Sometimes, he says, if you can reach just one person, you’ve made a real difference. If you can reach one person then maybe they collect a Go Bag, and maybe they start telling their neighbors about how to prepare, and maybe they can help others when they do reach the high ground. That’s all you can do, he says shrugging. Get them one at a time.

Dear Future Employer…

If you or your HR rep is any good, you will be doing a social media background check on me and you will have found my blog, EMScholar. I’d like you to consider the blog a portfolio of my growth as an Emergency Manager and humanitarian. While the blog is professional in nature, I did not try to hide my personal beliefs because I don’t believe you can separate the personal from the professional and neither do you. During an interview, for instance, you are looking for a gut reaction which tells you if you like the person or not, whether they’ll be a good fit or not–not whether they’re good at their job.

So since I haven’t hidden my personal beliefs, you will notice that I have posted some religious-in-nature content. Perhaps this concerns you because you might work for a non-religious or even governmental entity and–if we were to be honest–the political strategies and comments of the “Religious Right” have made all religious people seem a little crazy. Or perhaps my religious content makes you nervous because you are religious too and you don’t know if I believe the same things you do. And–unfortunately–religious people are known for being passionately and aggressively against any idea which they oppose.

Let me assure you that, while I am religious, I will not treat you or your ideas poorly. I cannot avoid the fact that I am motivated–in part–by my religious upbringing. Like Jesus, I care about people and I want to work to alleviate suffering. Unlike Jesus, I am not here to proselytize. I will not treat homosexuals, Arab immigrants, atheists, scientists, or even you with disrespect. I will not try to change your mind, make you feel guilty, or act ‘holier-than-thou’. Instead, I will love people and work to protect their freedom to believe what they want. I will be curious about you and your perspective. I will work with you and be an eager participant in teams. I will work hard, be professional, be cheerful, eat good food, and drink good drink. I will be responsible for my mistakes, apologize, and do better next time. I will be a good citizen, a good daughter, wife, sister, and mom, and a good employee.

Unfortunately, I will also have integrity. I will act ethically. I will criticize poor quality programs, wasteful use of money, and corruption. I cannot be bribed. I will hold myself and you to be responsible to our constituents/clients, and I will be obnoxiously, stubbornly opposed to unethical activity.

If that sounds good to you, then I think we should get into business together.
Sincerely Yours,

Johanna N. Hanson

What Membranes and Pendulums Have in Common.

Finding balance

I briefly considered being a therapist in High School. I’m a good listener and fairly analytic, so it seemed like a good fit until my mom said, “Yes, but you’d have to keep your distance.” My mom knew that I have a lot of empathy and sometimes have trouble not getting emotionally involved in other people’s problems. (Just like she knew that my 6 y/o self would have a hard time putting animals to sleep if I grew up to be a veterinarian. Which I proclaimed was fine, because I’d bring all the animals to live with me. And she just nodded–bless her.)

Both of my parents are medical doctors, so I was familiar with the “shell” that doctors have to develop so they aren’t emotionally traumatized every time a patient dies. Like army commanders, they have to maintain some distance from their patients so that they can continue to do their work when bad things happen. As I began my Emergency Management studies, I assumed that I would have to develop a similar shell. I assumed that I would become cynical and jaded, like Dr. House on his eponymous show. But I don’t want to be that person. The whole reason I became an Emergency Manager was to help people and how can I continue to do my job well if I lose my humanity?


But this week, I noticed something else. Instead of developing a hard shell so that all the stories about child trafficking, suicide bombings, and Russian poverty don’t bother me, I’ve developed a permeable membrane. These stories still bother me a great deal. So, I take them in small doses. I follow world events thoughtfully–sometimes carefully avoiding a particular story while at other times purposefully following others. I monitor my emotional state frequently and when I feel stressed, I focus on happy things. When I feel robust, I check in with the world. (It never changes much.)

But in order to do this, I have to put aside the embarrassment and shame of not keeping close tabs on current events. I have to stop cringing every time someone gasps, “You didn’t hear about that?! Where have you been, under a rock?” I have to practice saying, “I didn’t have the emotional fortitude for that story.”–or perhaps something better. Something that conveys that I don’t consider world events entertaining. That I take human suffering seriously–that it impacts me. That in order to do my job, I have to let it impact me and that I have to protect myself from its impact. And that that dichotomy is a balancing act that seems more like wavering between two extremes rather than a perfect moderation.

As my mother told me once, “pendulums are balanced too”.

How do YOU manage your humanity in a world where bad things happen? Share below.

On Empowerment

I’ve been thinking lately about my role as a humanitarian and–separately (until now)–my status in society as a white female from America. As a white, upper-middle class American, I am incredibly rich (though I often forget that) and have incredible opportunity to achieve my potential. I am one of the privileged few who can do more than exist. I will be more than a subsistence farmer, or a minimum wage worker. My job will impact society. I have power–and more importantly–the ability to grow that power through education, experience, and careful financial investments.

Today, I head a sermon which struck a chord with me–a young professional on the verge of my career. Pastor John McLarty of the Green Lake Church in Seattle was speaking on the passage in John 13:1-17 where Jesus washes his disciples feet. (You can see the video below.) He makes the point that by washing his disciples feet, Jesus was subverting his disciples understanding of status. As Pastor John summarizes, Jesus was saying, “Pour your status into others and you will be happy.” Pour your status into others….. an interesting turn of phrase. Pastor John goes on to describe people like kings and church leaders who pour their energy into keeping their power. How their subject suffer when kings won’t share their power with others.

So what happens when you share your status? You empower others. You give them the agency you enjoy. You make the world a better place. That’s what a humanitarian should be. I think I–as a privileged, educated American–have the responsibility to wield my power carefully. I should share my status with those that have none. I will not be afraid that my power and status will evaporate and leave me destitute because I will remember that God promised to give me strength and joy in return. Perhaps then, something good will come from White Privilege.

(begin at 30:13. I suggest you watch the whole sermon (about 20 minutes) because he says more good stuff that I didn’t talk about here.)

The Stress of Relocation

My husband and I moved across country a week before Thanksgiving and two weeks before Finals. Which is fine because we’re moving back home to the Pacific Northwest and nearer to our families. Knowing that our stuff was shipping separately and that it would take about a week to get to us, we carefully packed the car so that we’d have everything we’d need to campout in our new home for a while. I even (very cleverly, I thought) mailed a box full of toilet paper, sponges, soap, a wooden spoon, etc ahead of us. Basically, this Emergency Manager packed a deluxe evacuation bag.

But now our truck has been delayed by snow, so our stuff is two weeks late and even though I’m excited to be “home” it’s still a new city and I don’t have any favorite spots yet–which is to say: Relocation is STRESSFUL. I always knew people found evacuating from their homes and staying in shelters or temporary housing to be emotionally taxing, but I always thought that I–being of average intelligence and courage with better-than-average training–would be able to tough it out. (I mean, I’ve taken a Psychological First Aid class, for crying out loud. I know about grief and stress!) But living outside of your home (as opposed to camping) without your stuff is more difficult than just the everyday inconveniences of not having a trashcan, a microwave, or a book to read. It’s even more than the discomfort of sleeping on a cot, having no chairs, and only three pairs of underwear. Basically, it’s the tension of needing to get back to routine but not having your routine-making things. Wanting to sort your life by cleaning the house and not having a broom. It’s the waiting. The waiting is killing me.

I read an article about how you should practice with your evacuation bag at least once–just go out into the woods or a hotel with nothing but your go-bag– and see what stuff you forgot. In a way, that’s what this situation has forced me to do. To go out and test my stress management skills. To test my evacuation preparation skills. And let me to tell you–I forgot to pack comfort. The thing I miss most? (besides my clothes, that is, lol, jk) A small frame which has a handwritten “I love you” note from my Honey. When you make your go-bag, don’t leave love notes behind. You’ll want a bit of comfort on the road.

Ruining Parties with Safety: Why I annoy my Facebook Friends

You know that weird guy at the party where you’re having a nice banter and people are cracking wise about a topic and the poor weird guy puts in his two cents–maybe with a little chuckle, or maybe with a grim face–and the joke is just over? And there’s an awkward silence until the nice person in the group thinks of something to say. And in the end, the weird guy just stands there as the group breaks up and wanders away gradually. I was totally that weird guy on Facebook the other day.

My friend–who happens to work as an outside contractor for nursing homes and independent living facilities–posted that the power went off in the facility where she was working that day and it made her wonder what she was supposed to do if she had had to evacuate the wheelchair-bound patients on the second floor without an elevator. (Curious? Check out this post for the answer.)

Let me just pause right here and say: I basically wander God’s green earth every single day hoping someone will talk to me about my studies. I never get this kind of opportunity. I mean, let’s face it, I basically wrote this blog so I could talk about my studies without people asking me about them, lol.

So right underneath the comment where someone had suggested parachutes as an evacuation method (My delivery is all wrong, you have to really picture the fat old granny in her pink, frilly nighty floating gently to the earth), I sent three hasty links answering her hypothetical question about how to evacuate immobile people over stairs. Suffice to say, there were no more jokes underneath my comment. (Whatever. I totally would have killed at an undertaker’s party. Heh….killed….)

I guess this is my life now. I face the sticky task of making safety fun. It’s my job to carefully balance humor, to make it palatable, and gravitas, to make it meaningful. I’m that weird guy at a party–too passionate to let an opportunity to do some good go by.

There are worse things to be.

By the way, I found this video while I was doing research for a more serious post which I think is hilarious. Watch it and tell me I’m wrong.


(I mean, come on! He so weirdly calm about evacuating someone and the music is so….elevator-y. Hehehehehe…… If you like this one, then you’ll love the 1950’s Nurse’s Training one. Talk about nerd heaven.)

What are you passionate about? Is it hard to get people to care about it? Let’s chat below!