Landlocked: Plan B

One of the most important components one must prepare prior to an adventure is the emergency plan.  Yet, it can be the most neglected and underrated. That is, until it is needed.

Over the past weekend, I learned that emergencies don’t wait until you are prepared. They will sneak up at the most inopportune time. Like a river formed from a storm, it tends to take the path of least resistance and most destruction.

As mentioned in the previous post, my rowing team and I were in Chicago October 14 & 15 for Rowtober fest. This regatta is held on the Chicago River, which is a difficult race course. Additionally, this race tends to attract the biggest turnout of parental units for our team. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely amazing that people are willing to come out to support us. But, the added parents does increase the pressure to not only compete well but for the team to be will managed so we leave a good impression.

It was the perfect venue for a storm to roll in. Needing to build a raft and ride out the floodwater, we were forced to rely on our emergency plan.

Inspired by last weekend’s events, here are a few tips to strengthen your emergency plan:

Have a backup plan. Recognize when to use it.

Perhaps it was a bad omen that I had to utilize plan B during the first leg of the trip. The rest of my team had left Columbia Friday afternoon while I stayed back to complete a newsroom shift. Beginning my solo trek to Chicago late at night after a rather taxing week. It became evident that I was more tired than I initially realized, however, I needed to be in Chicago early the next morning so I continued to push ahead. It can be easy to get caught up with the end goal and not realize that if you continue on the path that you are on now, it won’t get you where you want to go. I had a plan B, if I got too tired and couldn’t safely drive I would pull over and crash somewhere for the night. Now, that wasn’t the most desirable plan but shadows of passing cornfields and an empty stretch of highway in front of you can be really soothing in the wee hours of the morning. Too soothing. It can start to put you to sleep. That’s when I realized it was better to use the backup plan.

Assume Nothing.

It was an early wakeup call Saturday morning as I was in Normal, IL and needed to complete two and a half more hours of driving. I had told my team that I pulled over for the night so the president of the team told me to not worry about attending the coaches and coxswains’ meeting. Nevertheless, I made it to the boathouse before the meeting. And it’s a good thing I did. A time mix-up meant that the rest of my team was just waking up as the meeting began and still on the road as the regatta began. We were slotted to be the first boat on the water, a men’s four (boats are classified by the number of athletes within the boat), but being the only one there for the team, I ended up having to scratch the boat from the race. So don’t assume other people will be responsible, just be prepared.

Have a hierarchy of power in place.

Having someone dedicated to take charge if things go downhill is imperative. This allows for some logic and reason within the natural chaos of emergency. With the event starting out on the wrong foot, I was desperate to get it back on track. Our novice women’s four boat went out and despite some hiccups in the beginning actually pulled out a decent race. However, the regatta was running about two hours behind by lunch time and because of this they decided to send out three races of boats at one time. Meaning that both our Women’s eight boat and men’s eight boat were on the water at the same time leaving only myself and two crewbies (crew newbies) on land.

As we were waiting on land, the gray skies turned more threatening and the waves on the river became more pronounced. The women’s boat made it back first and we were all geared up ready to help them with docking, oars and shoes. That’s when I recognized the back of our men’s bow. They were moving slowly back towards the doc, all but hidden by the cover of the riverbank trees. As the boat moved forward I noticed two of our men weren’t in the boat. One being the president. So as the vice president (and someone who was worried) I ran down to the river’s edge only to be told that one of our athletes had passed out mid race and an ambulance was on the way.

Suddenly I was the one in charge of a boat of men who all looked visibly shaken and a boat that was still on the water with no way of knowing what was going on. All of this in front of a massive crowd of parents, coaches and other teams. At this point if you have a plan in place, orders become naturally. You take things one at a time. Fix what you know and don’t get overwhelmed at the entire situation. Having a clear head helps you prioritize. We got the men off the water and the boat put away. Delegated them to watch for the women’s boat and help them. Things were being accomplished but there was a lot of unknowns.

Emergency contact information is imperative.  

As someone in charge, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone is safe. That means knowing each athlete’s medical history enough to know what could pose as a problem. At this point in time, the official launch boat had went and gotten the president and injured athlete from the dock where they were dropped off during the incident. Unfortunately, the unconscious athlete was our biggest potential risk. We were able to convey to the paramedics what the parameters of his condition were. But we realized that our required emergency contact list was being kept safe back in the club sports office… at Mizzou. Meaning, we didn’t have any way to immediately contact his parents (in St. Louis) and let them know he was being taken to the hospital. Lesson learned, always have contact information on hand.

Breathe. Then act.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that you may have an emergency plan perfectly lined out but it will do you no use if you don’t keep calm. It is easy to become overwhelmed when you have so many people looking at you for directions all the while you are occupied worrying about your friend whose condition is unknown. But if you just breathe and focus on the task in front of you, the situation becomes less daunting.

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