Thursday, November 9, 2017

I'm a survivor! I'm not gonna give up!

I really love the Olympics. You can actually find a lot more of my commentary about them on Eilonwy's blog, as we've made it a tradition to transcribe our conversations about them, whether we watch near or far from each other. It was so exciting to watch the closing ceremonies in Rio last year, when they did the official hand off to Tokyo for the 2020 summer games, because I was in the midst of preparations to move there myself! Unfortunately, and I knew this then too, we will likely be leaving before the Games themselves, as we expect to be heading to our next duty station in fall 2019. I recently saw my first call for Olympic volunteers and got bummed that I wouldn't be here to do it. Still, I figured I'd keep an eye out for test events or other opportunities to be involved in the lead up to the games. So, when the American Red Cross (with which I am officially signed up to volunteer with - all paperwork and briefings and such) on base sent out a call for volunteers for an emergency preparedness drill at a future Olympic site, I dropped everything else I had going on during that time and signed up!
I can actually read the word "sailing" on this banner!

The drill was this morning out in Enoshima, an island we love to visit in nearby in Sagami Bay, where they will have Olympic sailing. Team 1 did a drill to simulate a bomb attack at a train station closest to the event.
Train station, prepping for the drill

Future victims, lining up and waiting for their assignment

I was on Team 2, and we simulated a sarin gas attack at the actual yacht club where they will hold the event. Of course, given the option between being an actual victim who would fall and have to be transported to care and safety instead of just running and screaming away, I definitely opted for the more dramatic.

Everything beyond the rope is observation - media, military, emergency personnel

Pretending to just hang out in the yacht club, but really waiting for the drill to start

It's a beautiful location, some of the best sailing and wind-surfing in Japan. You could also see Fuji today, but I couldn't get a photo.

The attack has begun! These were the first victims and our cue to start.

Amanda down!

And since I really couldn't take photos after that (until I was cleared medically), here's how it went down. I waited on the ground for close to 30 minutes. It went rather quickly, but I bet it would feel like an eternity if it were reality. Emergency personnel finally arrived in hazmat suits, which would get less serious the farther away I got from ground zero (from huge suits to just basic masks and everything in between). Eventually, one of them came behind me, hooked his arms under mine, and then started dragging me to the exit.

My pants tried to stay where I had fallen. Once they had slid past my bum, and I was given a chance as my rescuer was readjusting, I pulled them back up and tried to keep them from doing that again. Soon, someone had my feet and my legs weren't dragging anymore. My apologies to everyone who saw my underwear. In a real emergency, none of us would really care.

I then laid on the balcony outside of the room of the attack for several minutes. Being right on the water, in the shade, and with a breeze, I was getting pretty cold and shivery, so I was pretty glad when a couple more rescuers rolled me onto a flexible plastic stretcher thing (kind of like an open top body bag), tucked my feet into a pocket, buckled a helmet on my head, and dragged me down the stairs. Then the sun was in my eyes, but I wasn't shivering anymore. From there, I got put into a stiff orange stretcher to wait outside of decontamination and another orange stretcher into the decontamination tent. This is where it wouldn't have mattered if my pants had come off earlier, because in real life, I would have been stripped and showered here. For the purposes of the drill, I just had to remove my hoodie. Outside of the tent, I got one more final check and was sent to hang out and wait in the survivor area, finally walking under my own power. Apparently I missed getting to ride in ambulance, even just around the block - maybe I should have been more dramatic.

Overall, it was a really interesting experience and, pants situation excluded, actually pretty fun! It was all Japanese emergency personnel and most of the other victims were medical students (maybe from pre-med high schools though), but they wanted a few non-Japanese speakers to help prepare for that eventuality. We had about ten Americans at each site. If I were really attacked with sarin gas, I probably wouldn't have been so calm. I started out crying, but since we mostly just waited for 30 minutes, that's a long time to fake cry. By the time I was getting help, I recognized that if I knew was getting help, it's entirely possible I would wait quietly if I could. That's just how I am.

Another interesting note was that a lot the personnel would ask me, in English, if I was okay when they approached me. I always answered "Okay." When someone, several steps in, asked it in Japanese ("Daijoubu desu ka?"), I responded in Japanese ("Daijoubu desu"). But when they reacted with pleasant "Oh! Nihongo o hanashimasu ka?" (Do you speak Japanese?), all I recognized in the moment was "Nihongo" (Japanese) and just stared at him. "A little" I finally squeaked out, in English. Under normal circumstances, I would have been able say "Sukoshi" (a little), but for all intents and purposes, the answer at this point to whether or not I spoke Japanese was a definite "Nope!" Anything I can automatically say, like excuse me (sumimasen) or alright (daijoubu), came out, but anything I had to think about even a little? Definitely not. This would likely be the case in a real emergency as well.

If I never get another opportunity to help prepare for the Tokyo Olympics, at least I had this! I had a great time and I think that with some more practice over the next three years, they will be well equipped to handle emergencies that may come up. Hopefully, they never have to.

1 comment:

Giggles said...


So jealous.

Also, funny about the pants.