Peabody, meet Sherman.

How does a podcast gain notoriety or increase its fan base? I was contemplating these questions as I prepared to appear on someone else’s podcast this morning. The anxiety that goes along with appearing on our own Left-of-Greg podcast hits me like a punch. Doubly so for a guest appearance.

Statue of George Peabody

The School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is named after George Peabody. UNC is our nation’s oldest state university and it’s been around for over two hundred years.

Peabody is best known for supporting public education in the South. He made his fortune as a banker and investing in and selling tea, sugar, and grain across the pond in London and in Baltimore. While not as well-known as Rockefeller or Carnegie, Peabody supported education and his foundation supports communication arts with an eponymously named award. The Peabody Award is given to honor, “the most powerful, enlightening, and invigorating stories in television, radio, and online media.”

I’m sure when Brian Marren invented it, he never intended for Left-of-Greg to earn a Peabody. I, however, have always hoped that we might be recognized for offering free, world-class opinions and educational tips on HBPR&A to the masses each week.

I say this while trying to remain humble and not appearing ironic. Pods are also advertising vehicles and their content is largely regulated by popularity and content appeal.

Realistically, music is by far the most popular podcast format. Music shows are followed by those about television and films, then comedy and kids shows. You have to go pretty far down, between crocheting and self-help I think, to get to podcasts that are educational in nature, those that aim to help folks help themselves.

I think our desired end state has always been to educate everyday people to help them be smarter, faster, and safer during critical incidents and being able to “read the tea leaves” and avoid dangerous situations through predictive analysis of human behavior.

In-person training is the gold standard, yet many corporate entities, churches, school districts, and police / first responder agencies still don’t seem to take human behavior training or their training budgets seriously. Our podcast is one way we can reach out and educate those folks on HBPR&A. 

Pod people.

In my day Pod People referred to as Body Snatchers, as in the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

In 2004, MTV VJ Adam Curry worked with Dave Winer to develop what we know now as podcasting. Curry was one of the first people to develop web sites, Winer was a content genius and helped develop blogs and podcasting. The rest is, as they say, history.

The Distinguished Savage.

This morning, Marren and I are appearing on the Distinguished Savage podcast. The ‘liner notes’ say that this podcast was created so that the host could, “talk to those who understand that the world can be a very dangerous place and how they go about facing that uncertainty and the story behind their choices.”

The host adds that he is looking for folks who live a philosophy of Define, Defend, and Defy by defining their life, defending that which they hold dear, and defying any who would tread on their sense of self!

All noble goals. The host of the show is US Army Veteran Walt Settlemyre. Walt is a Paramedic and has been in emergency services as a firefighter and paramedic specializing in pre-hospital medicine. Walt brings advanced life support opportunities to harsh environments in and around Central Texas.

Walt is a member of a large metropolitan EMS system where he serves as a rescue paramedic on a Special Operations Team. Walt also worked as a tactical medic, training at the Counter Narcotics and Terrorism Operational Medical Course. Walt’s specialties include rope and high angle, swift-water rescue as well as confined space and structural collapse rescue. Walt also teaches wilderness search and rescue techniques.

The Knack.

Walt’s a trainer, like us. It’s a funny business, being a trainer. Our son Nico is a firefighter here in Gunnison. He has undergone a ton of required and elective training to enhance his abilities. This included Nico paying out of pocket to get EMT certified and undergo additional paramedic training.

A couple of years back, Nico and his good friend and Gunnison Volunteer Fire Department Lieutenant Cal Dobie asked if we would put on a local course in our downtime between our travels. At their request, Shelly Williams, Brian Marren and I put on a 3-day training event specifically for first responders here in Gunnison, Colorado.

There was a good excuse for some of the fire professionals not to attend, some had been tasked out to wildfire suppression and to assist other agencies, but I was completely embarrassed by the fact that local law, the SO and fire and first responders from Gunnison (city and county) didn’t show while we had folks drive from as far away as Denver, Colorado to attend this incredible training seminar.

We didn’t get to all of Walt’s question on today’s podcast, so I decided to answer Walt’s remaining questions here in my blog and perhaps the Q&A will benefit some first responders and paramedics in our LL audience! Thanks to master-trainer Walt Settlemyre for these great, thought-provoking questions.

Why is HBPR&A important to first responders?

HBPR&A is human behavior pattern recognition and analysis. It is a form of mental, emotional, and baseline triage. Triage is where emergency professionals assign degrees of urgency to wounded or ill patients. We do the exact same thing using culture as context, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and human behavior and apply those cues against the relevant societal baseline.

Paramedics ask patients ‘what’s your pain level?’ You give them a scale from which to pick. You also ask if the pain is getting better or worse while you are assessing them for injuries. ML (most likely) and MDCOA (most dangerous courses of action) are very similar. You are attempting to determine which way the ripples in the pond are going and based on that information whether your patient is stable or likely going to crash. 

What’s the difference between training and education for first responders?

There is no appreciable difference. We get asked often what content we change when we are training SEALs one day and Fireman or Corporate Managers the next. Certainly, while we gear the information to the specific mission of the client, the basic rules are the same. Training means transferring specific human behavior skills to the group we are teaching; education means transferring theoretical knowledge about that topic during the training. Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) said it best, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

Why do people call 911 when, health-wise, a ride to the hospital isn’t in their best interest?

As a copper, I had to field questions from 911 callers that had nothing to do with a crime or emergency in progress. During my response, I had to remember that perhaps the caller was in a mental health crisis mode. Anxiety attacks are horrible. You can feel like you are dying. Sometimes folks call because they don’t know who else to call. They are confused or scared and they just need someone to talk to.

Someone clean, sterile, sober, trained, a professional. Never forget that you are the only 24-hour help center in the world manned by experienced, veteran caller takers sworn to help the public no matter what the crisis. I’m not advocating calling 911 when you don’t need emergency help. I’m also not telling you not to call when you think you might have an emergency. I’m saying that both the callers and call takers must have compassion and empathy no matter the nature of the incoming call.

The caller on the other end of the phone could easily be your mom or dad, a little scared and a lot confused. Think of the impression you are about to make with your words. It’s much harder near the end of your 24-hour shift, but remember that this might be the first encounter that the caller has with emergency services, and now YOU are the voice of that company. Employ professionalism, take a few seconds before you answer, and ensure that your answer is calm, complete, and informative.   

Why do people hoard toilet paper during a viral pandemic?

It’s important to note that supplies like toilet paper and water are only scarce in places where hoarding is needlessly occurring. Hoarding is referred to psychologically as ‘panic buying’. Panic buying isn’t new. It is an attempt by a scared human to gain a sense of control when the world around them feels uncertain and dangerous.

It’s like ‘cutting’, the person that cuts themselves can control how deep and how often they cut. They control their own pain when the pain inflicted on them seems so random and mindless.

When I buy toilet paper, I can see the rolls. I can stack them in my pantry. They are organized, sanitary, and make me think I’m in charge of something. I have provided for myself – for my family. I have made the world a little less scary. Just like anxiety makes me want to gorge on food because I control when and how much I eat; I’ll show that food who’s boss.

Humans in emergencies are not unlike herd animals. When I act as an Elk hunting guide, I know that if I am spotted by the lead cow, she will bleat and moo then run in a circle to alert the herd. They’ll see her signal and start running, too. When I see my otherwise normal and rational neighbors on the news hoarding toilet paper, I go primitive and tribal. My mind wandering, do they know something that I don’t? Then I repeat their panic behavior.

Geographic profiling and first responders.

“With access to Habitual areas and Natural lines of drift canceled, what advice do you have for paramedics when dealing with people inside their homes during a pandemic?”

Police, first responders, EMS, or paramedics respond to a 911 call and sometimes forget that they are walking into a victims’ home, their most familiar Anchor point. Probably the most important Anchor point since the primitive tribal cave. Whether it’s the Taj Mahal or a hobo’s box, it is that man or woman’s castle and you should treat it thusly.

As a first responder, you are likely seeing a person at their worst; they had no chance to get ready for their emergency appointment with you. Just the act of giving someone directions in their own home or moving a piece of furniture out of the way to render aid might set them off. People teach you how to treat them. Back off of ‘transmit’ for a minute and LISTEN to what the person is trying to tell you, trying to teach you.     

Avoid the urge to rush blindly into a situation. First, determine what caused the 911 situation that you are now a part of. Whether it’s an ambush, the danger presented by methane gas in a confined space entry, an electrical short or another complicated situation, you need to be on top of your game every time you show up on a scene. You need to look, listen, feel, smell, taste, and sample the environment constantly and with all your sense while you are there. If you are focusing down and in on the patient, your partner needs to be looking up and out, considering your safety. Baseline sampling needs to include whether the situation and emotions are ramping up (MDCOA) and you may have to leave or defend yourself against an attack or things are calming down (MLCOA) and you can attend to other tasks.     

If you find yourself in a situation where there are drugs and weapons present or you see incongruent signals, like a French knife on a coffee table, or there is evidence of damage or violence consistent with self-harm, homicidal violence or domestic violence, use The Gift of Time and Distance and back off until you get help.

These are the types of situations ripe for part-task training and scenario-based practical applications. The part-task training could involve evident but partially hidden cues in the environment forcing the paramedic to THINK his or her way out of a situation. The practical application could include facing an ambush, officer down, medic down, hostage situation or another likely encounter but not from the standpoint of a TTP tactic, technique or procedure; but rather, from the standpoint of sensing the situation is about to become one of those encounters and you and your cohorts taking steps to mitigate or avoid the outcome. Training means you are actually performing the skill after learning the skill from an expert.

Don’t neglect natural lines of drift, even during a pandemic. It’s hugely important that coppers, paramedics, and first responders are good witness. Use your situational awareness skills while en route to a scene to determine whether a suspect might be driving past you while leaving or compare the environmental or societal baselines to see if there are hints as to where the true danger lies.

Can you talk about rage against authority figures?

I would caution you that “Authority figure” doesn’t have to be a first responder, police officer or government official. If, by means of your assignment, mannerisms, clothing, or other factors (for example; right now, as a paramedic you are giving me orders in my own home) I perceive YOU as the authority – that can prove dangerous or fatal.  

The instinctive way to express anger is to respond aggressively towards the thing causing you the stress, hate, fear, or anxiety. You might be the gate agent that announces an upcoming flight has been canceled. Even though you have no control over the weather, a certain angry passenger may see you as the proximate cause of their plight and lash out at you. If you can expect it – you can train for it. Your job is to hold it together, forget the insults and threats, and instead de-escalate the situation by enlisting the aid of the angered person. If you are in danger, don’t stick around displaying tombstone courage. Defend yourself, break contact, and re-assess your situation while calling for reinforcements.

Why do people want to fit in?

In your longer question, you mention non-conformist and conformists and their drive to fit in with a group. First, remember that non-conformists are rare. They will stand out in a crowd the harder they attempt to blend in. Dennis Raider, Ted Kaczynski, Eliot Rodger, Eric Rudolph, Jeffrey Dahmer are examples of true non-conformists.

Their anonymity, their true-selves being hidden from the public is an essential cover if they intend to continue offending. They may assume a public identity to navigate their environment freely, but true conformity. love and friendship are beyond their grasp.    

Homophily and Isopraxism are scientific terms addressing the need for folks to fit into a crowd. These are primitive survival mechanisms forcing humans to blend in, filling the psychological necessity to belong to a group.

Homophily implores people to form groups, tribes, teams, or sets with people they perceive as similar to themselves. Isopraxism is where a person acts, speaks, or dresses like those people within a socially significant group to ‘fit in’. While homophily can be both conscious and unconscious, many times Isopraxism is unconscious and helps us determine links between people within groups. Homophily is another reason people panic purchase toilet paper. You are hoarding, to fit in – I better do it too.

What do you mean by percolating?

As a paramedic, you are already in an emergency situation – so, it’s easy to understand that anger cues and rage steadily building up (percolating) could be hidden by other things present at your scene: advanced life support is in progress, tensions are high, all the players in the room are anxious, there are drugs, ETOH or alcohol on board, you just had to run up a flight of stairs and the occupants of the apartment just stopped fighting – each of these factors will affect the atmosphere and therefore the baseline.

Rather than looking at a laminated list of pre-event anger cues, instead compare what you see against what you should be seeing, then compare your observations against a baseline for (clinical) normal.

It’s not unlike a teeter totter. Use ML and MDCOA. What emotional state or psychological stance was this guy in when I first got here? Where is he or she now? What does that look, feel, smell like? Are they calming down or ramping up?

This would present another great opportunity for part task and practical application training. People ‘on the edge’ give off pre-event cues and clusters. People ‘about to crash’ do so as well. Look for those trigger points while avoiding trigger words, and always have a plan to de-escalate the situation or be ready to defend yourself or leave in a hurry. 

As a trainer, I would say that you should use every incident that your paramedics encounter as lessons. Debrief them, hot wash them, outline them, turn them into Lessons Learned. Use that information to foster a culture and create an institutional memory for your organization.

So What?

I would like to thank Walt for his service to our great Nation and for his questions.

I would remind each of you that you can get your personal, private, group, or team questions answered in a future Lessons Learned just by sending them to Brian Marren at the Arcadia site.

Hopefully, I was able to answer many of Walt’s concerns and maybe some of your own as well.

Brian Herbert famously said,

The capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice

Training changes behavior.

  • Greg
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