Interview with Carl Oscar Jonson, First Aid Coordinator during the Swedish Wildfires

“The DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines could definitely help save lives and minimize the impact of a crisis.”

Carl Oscar Jonson – First Aid Coordinator during the Swedish Wildfires

Carl Oscar Jonson is one of the hundreds of brave volunteers who provided emergency assistance during the recent Swedish wildfires.

He volunteered as a First Aid Coordinator with the Swedish Red Cross.

Carl Oscar is the Research Coordinator at KMC – the Centre for Teaching & Research in Disaster Medicine and Traumatology and is one of over 160 experts in the DARWIN Community of Practitioners who has helped develop the DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines.

He tells us how his training in using the DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines proved extremely useful when responding to the wildfire disaster.

Tell us about your role in the Swedish wildfires?

I was driving with my family during our vacation, when I heard reports on the radio about wildfires breaking out across the country.

The Secretary General of the Swedish Red Cross was being interviewed on the organisation’s efforts to coordinate the volunteers that wanted to help the rescue services and affected communities.

I had volunteered as a First Aider in the past and had worked as an advisor for the Swedish Red Cross on First Aid and Domestic Crisis Management.

I decided to check in with my old colleagues to see if I could be of service. Just one hour later they called and asked if I could come and join the Operations Centre team working with national volunteer coordination in response to the fires.

I assumed the role of volunteer coordinator for First Aid teams and helped out with resource management to the different sites that had requested First Aid Posts.

It involved checking in with volunteer commanders, logistics, reporting to government agencies and coordinating with other volunteer services.

It was really heart-warming when we received a call from the Norwegian Red Cross saying they had lists of volunteers who wanted to be deployed to Sweden to help their fellow First Aiders and communities.

I worked with executing the plans and formalities of accepting “foreign aid” and requesting that their Tetra Radio system would be connected to the Swedish system. Happy to say that a team of 18 Norwegian were on site and on line to help out the same evening.

Did your training in the DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines prove useful when working on the Swedish wildfires?

Absolutely. My knowledge and training in the DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines contributed greatly to the skills I used when working in the Operations Centre.

When I was organizing my own work, I recall applying parts of “Noticing brittleness”. I was surveying the situation reports from the different sites in Sweden regarding volunteer resources and potential need of resources. Then I analysed how the demand could quickly change at the sites closest to the largest wildfires and formed a plan for reorganising staff and supplies to reduce brittleness.

I would also interpret the collective efforts and the coordination between professional emergency services, government agencies, volunteer organizations, businesses, and technical systems as an execution of prior Swedish work in line with “Establishing networks for promoting interorganizational collaboration in the management of crises”.

Why were these aspects most useful in this specific crisis?

I think most people have a vague idea or mental model of a situation and how to manage it efficiently. The DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines training gives you added value, providing you with a framework and a language to organise the situation in your mind, so that you can focus your attention on one part at a time. In this case I could see the situation in the perspective of brittleness, and figure out a way to reduce that.

In your opinion, what difference can the guidelines make to a crisis? How can they help improve the situation?

Well, first I think it’s important to be humble. Even if I’m a fan of the DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines; organisations that don’t work with them yet might still be resilient and, unknowingly applying them. What the DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines offer is a way for an organisation to scrutinize if they are, or not.

Most organization would probably say “we already do that” when looking at the DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines, but I feel confident that most organisations would also find gaps in their resilience.

The DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines offers guidance on how to address that. Depending on which gaps are addressed, and which crisis that organisation will face; the guidelines could definitely help save lives and minimize the impact of a crisis. But most of all, the guidelines offer a way to make sure you are a resilient crisis management organisation prior to that challenge.

What advice do you have for any other organisation who would like to adopt the DARWIN      Resilience Management Guidelines?

Start small and try to find a way to incorporate the work in projects already going on.

Start by reading the DARWIN Resilience Management Guidelines and find one or two that you can more easily connect with.

Then I would suggest setting up a stand-alone Table Top Exercise with a scenario that challenges your organisation in line with that guideline, and discuss how the scenario would normally be managed, and if that differs in the light of the content of the guideline.

Another method might be to incorporate working with the guideline with the revision of an SOP or contingency plan. That way you ease in to the work.

 

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