Page 173 - WSAVA2018
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Purpose of data
As a disaster unfolds, no one has a complete picture of what is happening. In the early stages decision making is based on assumptions and previous experience. However, the later can quickly create an environment whereby the focus of the response is skewed and highly probable that the response will be inadequate. Much more bridging of knowledge and insight is needed to deepen the collective knowledge of how we can, together, more effectively respond to the crises.2 This in part is achieved by raw data collection at the coal face by those with local knowledge and at varying stages of the disaster. The assessment process occurs in sequential steps and has three phases (rapid initial response, response and recovery) to ensure the information collected is of use. The general process remains the same through each phase, but the detail of information, speed at which it is collected and how it is collected differs. During the early stages, rapid information is required to protect life and reduce further impact on welfare, infrastructure and recovery. This is known as the rapid initial assessment. The next phase is a full needs assessment. This assessment involves assessing the situation to confirm the information being received is an accurate reflection of the event. It also ensures that any subsequent response is co-ordinated, targeted, effective and reduces the likelihood of duplication of effort. This is a crucial phase in any response work as a poorly conducted assessment is likely to lead to poor planning decisions and an inadequate response. This often has flow on consequences affecting recovery efforts.
The information that is pivotal to decision making is intelligence which helps to understand the current impacts on animal welfare and what may impact later on. For example in a flood event, the initial rapid assessment needs to assist with an understanding where the flood impact is and what assistance may be required. Are people self-evacuating? What are your clients doing? Are they asking for help? What is your community doing? Do they have adequate access to veterinary care? Thinking ahead; what are the risks associated with animals being in flood water during the event as well as having access to contaminated grounds once water has started to recede? This is where proactive thinking about zoonotic diseases from a public health perspective should occur. Animals tend to be the initial indicator as animals usually become sick before people do. In New Zealand, like many countries, the regions identified as high risk of leptospirosis exposure is growing at an exponential rate.3,5 Therefore, if cases of such diseases are presenting at veterinary clinics post flooding this should be communicated as an environmental indicator to the agencies responsible for co-ordinating the recovery. The risk index for exposure to people and animals after a flood event continues to rise and should be regarded in proactive public health measures. A pertinent example of collaborative intelligence.
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Stress physiology
When a disaster occurs, people affected by the traumatic event experience a range of early reactions (physical, psychological, emotional and behavioural).4 These reactions may interfere with their ability to cope and can impact
how we observe and interpret what is occurring around
us. When in a relaxed state the para-sympathetic system dominates, however, this can change when the fight or flight response is initiated. This is our usual response when we come across an emergency situation. When in an aroused state the sympathetic system dominates to assist with our survival. This is very effective to increase alertness and prepares us for a quick response, however, we need to ensure it is kept at an optimal level as we can tip over the edge and become ineffective due to paralysing stress.
When comparing what our bodies are doing physiologically in a relaxed state as opposed to a fight / flight response we can see where some of the positive and negative responses come in to play. Our brains
do not distinguish between physical threat (attacked
by a dog) and psychological threat (stress of making decisions in an emergency). When in survival mode the brain is in a stressed state and this reactivity makes it quite challenging, if not outright impossible to be open and receptive to others. We become hyper-vigilant, experience negative thinking, have a sense of urgency
“I have to get it done and it has to be done now!” and have tunnel vision. This affects our ability to concentrate, we forget things and start to ruminate (thoughts going around and around). You have no doubt experienced
this on occasions and see it often in your clients. This
is a dangerous state to be in as we need our smart
brain to “click” in, the neocortex. This part of the brain allows us to think and reason along with regulating the limbic system, our emotions. It allows us to see what
is going well, gives us patience and the ability to wait.
It creates calmness, equanimity (remaining calm and undisturbed), allows us to be able to keep an even keel, see the subtleties and sustain attention. These are all the qualities that are required to be a valuable resource in an emergency situation. This is known as mindsight and is vital for collaborative intelligence. Part of the process of developing mindsight involves reducing reactivity when it is not actually necessary. This can be achieved by stopping, taking deep breaths and focusing on the task at hand. After doing breathing exercises we can start thinking rather than simply reacting.
Actions need to be driven by objective decisions rather than by emotions. Therefore, you need to ask yourself are you thinking or just reacting. The answer could mean the difference between success and failure in an emergency situation.

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