Mitigating Unnecessary Risks
Podcast Episode 112520
By: Alaskan Outlaw - November 25th, 2020
It’s 28 below zero outside your front door, and the postman has just delivered that package you have been waiting weeks for. He deposited said package in your mailbox. There are seventy-five feet between your front door and the mailbox with three wooden steps to get off your front porch. Your driveway is covered with a snow/ice mix. You really want that package, but it’s ridiculously cold outside. You are currently dressed for the 67-degree temperature inside your home. What to do? If everything goes right, you could make the trip in 2 minutes or less, no muss, no fuss. If there is no windchill you got around 20 to 30 minutes before frostbite becomes a concern, so plenty of time to avoid that. What if you slip and fall on the stairs, or driveway ice? Now, you’ve put yourself needlessly into Mother Nature’s crosshairs. Why do people do this? Why take these small risks that could cause lifelong damage?
Greetings friends, neighbors, fellow veterans, and Americans and welcome to the Alaskan Outlaw podcast. I am the Alaskan Outlaw and today I’ll be your host for a journey into a level of safety and security for you and your family. I hope amidst the ongoing worldwide pandemic, and constant threats of unrest around every corner, that you and your family are safe and prepared for the future, whatever it may hold for the human race. From my family to yours we send a very Happy Thanksgiving. While some may lament over this idea, we here at Alaska Outlaw are very thankful for the plethora of emails and messages we receive from you every day. We are also thankful for the many tips and discussions that you all provide to us. My family is thankful for our health, and my wife and I are truly thankful for our grandchildren. We are truly thankful for all the Armed Services members for their constant protection of our freedoms and way of life here in the United States. As a resident here in South Central Alaska, I’ve worked hard, lived, and played hard in this extreme weather, including time spent on the north slope of Alaska in the depth of winter. This has given me a great appreciation of protective equipment, particularly cold weather protection.
Throughout the years I have interacted with thousands of people who have needlessly challenged the extreme weather here in Alaska. Some have gotten away with it, while others were not so lucky. Whether it was losing extremities due to extreme frostbite, or losing their lives due to hypothermia. As my older boys were growing up they constantly challenged the Alaska winters, and for the most part, they were a part of the lucky ones. However, I would say that one of the most avoidable injuries are injuries dealing with hot and cold weather. As a boy growing up in Southern Arizona, I learned, sometimes painfully, that extreme heat can be just as dangerous as extreme cold. Heatstroke, exhaustion, and sunburns can be very dangerous, and painful. But, in the big picture of things, the most overlooked type of injuries are weather-related. In my experience, there are really two schools of thought when it comes to weather injuries; first is the “macho man” mentality who foolishly thinks they are tougher than the weather, and the other is the “quick tasks” that underestimates how fast weather can change, or what degree of impact a short dash of weather can have.
The more I listen to any of the news, or social media, the more I am convinced that the days of "common sense" must be behind most as they go about their everyday lives in these modern times, oblivious to anyone else but themselves. In some cases, some have neglected their own children to remain "plugged in". Between scantly covered teenagers hurrying to the early morning school bus throughout the winter here in Alaska, and (as some teacher friends have told me) that some children show up to school here in Alaska with the weather in the single digits without even so much as a coat on. Some that live among us have lost the value of self-preservation. On the business front, thousands of workplace injuries are reported every year that could have been prevented with very little forethought and a tighter focus on the task at hand. To this point, Workman's Comp insurance in 2018, reported there were 900,380 claims made, at about $41,003 averaging per claim, that adds up to about $36 billion dollars (USD). Now motor vehicle crashes took home the trophy for most claims as well as the most costly, while burns, falls, caught, and misc rounded out the top five by cause. As another report pointed out, in 2015, workers comp paid claims to the tune of $61.9 billion dollars, with medical benefits eating $31.1 billion, and lost wages eating the remaining $30.7 billion dollars. Suffice to say, lawsuits over “smart suits” I guess. This information was reported by the National Council on Compensation Insurances (NCCI) in their annual reports available on their website.
We need to differentiate necessary risks by ensuring that we know that there remain some risks that must be undertaken to continue our pursuit of happiness.
So, we need to make sure that we cover our “fab five”, and understand that they may incur a level of risk that we’ll have to engage in to ensure our safety and survival. Our fab five have set timelines that have to be met and some are non-negotiable, and therefore may be more important to engage in risky activities to ensure accomplishment.
With necessary risks filed away, today I want to talk about unnecessary risks. I want to talk about taking the idea of preparedness to an everyday level. More importantly, I want to discuss the idea of mitigating unnecessary risks to ensure our future preparedness. During our discussion about “the rule of three” or “fab five,” I added the idea of a fifth item, protective gear. Remember that? Trust me when I say there was a reason I made it that important. When we talk about our most important, “bare naked” skills, the idea of including a section on protective gear was paramount to the success of all the others. A critical piece to survival. Yea, it’s that important. So, in today’s show, I want to discuss making a risk analysis on any given task, thereby determining if it’s really worth it. However, those who live in “the land of plenty” seem to disregard self-preservation and take their safety for granted. As a former Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in southern Arizona, I personally witnessed the reckless things people did, especially without the advances in protective equipment. Sometimes it feels like people are wanting bad things to happen just to participate in the litigation process in hopes of that big payday. The precedent is set by parents wanting the big payday for their children, who really have a minimum value of self-preservation for different reasons. Yet, hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid to provide the most simplistic workplace training, to very little avail.
I'm reminded of several years ago when I was employed in the oil production industry here in Alaska. This employment took me to the North Slope of Alaska to the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay. There are several points that I took away from my visits to the most northern part of our state in February. The first thing to say that at one point during my last trip up there the ambient temperature was 82 below zero. If you have ever been in that extreme, you know, anything exposed would freeze, and that meant the very thin film of moisture over your eyeballs could freeze... Protective gear was mandatory, and there were signs everywhere that told you to keep your gear on while outside the buildings, even within heated vehicles.
In addition, most of the platforms were fifteen to twenty feet, or more up off the ground, so there were metal grated stairs everywhere. The thing that struck me was during the briefing to go up there, we were told that most injuries that happen on stairs, happen within the last four steps. Their thinking was that many people who fell had shifted their brains onto whatever they were doing next, before completing the task of navigating the stairs.
Probably the first thing that we should consider when discussing the protection of our health is that are some things that can’t be repaired. Damage to the eyes, or ears, can’t be fixed without the extensive intervention of medical science, and then, it's a device to assist us forever. Should you find yourself separated from the medical community, there are certain things you might want to be a little more cautious about. Certainly sight and sound, but mobility as well. We've all heard stories of people who got lost high in the mountain ranges, miles from anything, and somehow break a leg. This turns what could have been an awesome adventure into a painful, sometimes even fatal, ordeal.
This brings up the fact that the reliance on today’s medical community may be problematic should the “shit hit the fan” (SHTF). Without specialists and surgeons, putting pieces of humans back together could come down to something out of a Frankenstein movie. Being properly prepared means that we seek out medical attention when it is warranted, and learn to handle most of the small stuff ourselves. But, it also means that we strive to avoid needing the medical community’s attention at all.
I see memes all the time about growing up without all this safety stuff and being ok all the time, and I sit back and sigh.
I sigh knowing that it's the lucky ones who are here to celebrate their survival. It’s because of those uncelebrated injuries that the safety stuff was developed, ensuring that the next generation would not have to endure the same pains. I’ve seen interviews with former daredevils and stuntmen whose bodies can clearly demonstrate the evolution of safety equipment. This should become a mantra that we must seat deep into our psyche if we want to survive, there is absolutely no value in taking unnecessary risks.
Recently I joined a local utility company and we started with safety training, which coincidently included a section that I had completed earlier while part of the oil patch here in Alaska, which spoke to the fact that the closer we get to the completion of a task, the more relaxed we get with our safety concerns. This couldn’t be any more true. We do tend to relax our vigilance when “it’s only for a minute”, or “let me do this last task”, and more often than not, this is where the accidents occur. While shortcuts may be cool and faster, they can also cause a metric shit ton of issues.
Let’s talk for a minute about some classes of safety gear in relation to their associated unnecessary injuries:
1. Weather-related - while this seems pretty clear cut, that’s obviously not the case. Being protected against the elements ensures that we stay healthy. While the potential that extremes can definitely have an immediate impact, prolonged exposure to even a median amount of weather can be as problematic.
2. Blunt trauma-related - obviously getting hit by a falling tree or sliding car can be more than likely fatal, however, a little bit of preparation can go a long way in avoidance. Even a residential piece of lumber can cause substantial injury if applied correctly.
3. Senses protection - this is where we can talk about protecting the eyes, ears, nose, taste, and touch. Remembering always that those little extensions of us outside the core, are more susceptible to freezing or burning, or other damage.
4. Tool usage related - this is where we see broken bones, large lacerations, and sometimes, the really talented, can puncture their body with a tool loaded with bacteria and other toxins. I reminded of stories where individuals have missed splitting a log and drove the ax through their lower leg.
5. Biological protection - this is what we are currently living with the worldwide pandemic. Microbic viruses are present everywhere, and yet, the tool to protect the airway is “too inconvenient” for some among us. While some “old wives tales” speak of promoting the eating of dirt in younger kids, to build up antibodies, there is some merit to minimization here. In addition, drinking brackish water because we forgot our water bottle could have dire consequences.
6. Motion related - these are the injuries that I feel have the highest potential for mitigation. This section deals with humans smacking into stuff that doesn’t like being smacked. Included here would be traction injuries were slipping on ice, or other slippery surfaces, wet floors, or even flour. Tripping over cords, or carpets are also included here. Just as dangerous, are caught injuries, ie starting to fall, instinctively reaching out and grabbing something to prevent the fall. Depending on what we grab, it actually could be quite dangerous. Some sheet metal, as an example, can be razor-sharp, as can some corrugated roofing. Just things we need to take precautions for, knowing what’s there before we go is most of this battle.
What about some of the scenarios we’ve discussed in previous shows? What if America should enter another Civil War? What if your area was struck by a natural disaster, and the medical system was overwhelmed, as it’s already pushed to the brink by this ongoing pandemic. What happens when your first aid kit runs out of antibiotics and you are weeks or years away from any more? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself, especially in a survival situation. Without a safety net of the medical community, these reckless behaviors become foolish, as if they aren’t now, but now you really are risking everything. This is the scenario that you should have in your head as you are becoming prepared for whatever life throws at you.
As long-term security and safety guy in a plethora of work environments, I have found that the common mistakes with unnecessary risks, particularly in the survival arena fall into two categories:
1. Inaccurate weather understanding is the number one situation that many people find themselves in trouble most quickly. By adding cooler temps (maybe not even cold), but add a little precipitation and you can get in trouble fairly quickly without much warning.
Shifting focus too early is my number two. Way too many times I see people forget to step correctly on the last two steps of a stairway, or changing their focus away from walking on ice. Both of these scenarios claim thousands of hours of medical staff involvement. These two don’t even address the international phenomenon of “face in phone” accidents that happen everywhere. Distractions are just another way of calling this one out.
When we talk about protective equipment, many may ridicule the use of some, but each piece has a function. Remember hearing can’t be repaired, sight repair requires advanced surgery. So there are reasons that we try to keep those two the safest. But, while I know that there are many who don’t, I know that you all can apply a little common sense.
Let’s consider a natural disaster, or zombie apocalypse, where there isn’t any medical care available. Whenever we discuss the idea of being without our local medical safety net, we have to be cognizant of this reality. This should be the ultimate game-changer when it comes to risks taken in trade for smaller gains.
So, whether the local medical system being overloaded by a natural disaster or a complete failure in a scenario of social implosion (we’ll call zombie apocalypse) the idea of being without any type of advanced medical care will definitely cause the possibility of life-threatening infections of smaller (avoidable) injuries to gain substantial consideration. This knowledge should change our game when it comes to risks, however, we all know that even if we witnessed a real zombie apocalypse, we can avoid all risks, so again it comes down to mitigating what we can. We can eliminate unnecessary risks, and that’s what I’m talking about here today. Just something to put into our thought process when thinking about an uncertain future.
Being prepared doesn’t mean that we are removing risks, as that is impossible. Our hope is to mitigate the risks, to balance them against the gain. Honestly, as you all know, my Harleys need breeze therapy every year, as does my fat tire bicycle. Both of these activities include a substantial amount of risks, however, it is offset by the sheer joy and relaxation I get when out for a ride. So, I understand the risks, I wear appropriate safety gear, and I exercise safe riding practices, thereby mitigating the risks. So, there are risks we have to take to live, I mean we can’t live wrapped up in bubble wrap, however, finding a balance between reward and risk is a part of our lives.
Well, there’s my two cents for what that’s worth nowadays. I hope that I’ve helped you understand the dangers involved in taking unnecessary risks, and while most of the time, many may slip by unnoticed. If there is no more medical community support, the potential for the termination of life becomes a lot higher for those smaller injuries. So I hope you know what you're risking for.
Honestly, I hope I’ve provided a foundation for you to continue to research the means to increase your level of personal safety while continuing to have fun. As always I am humbled that you have chosen to join us for this discussion, I look forward to enjoying more conversations with you, the American people, and a beautiful piece of the human race. God bless you all, and God bless the United States. Peace.