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Wild Card Scenario: Training for the Unexpected


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, In Homeland Security

In emergency medicine, medical, psychiatric and traumatic emergencies tend to fall into the same types of genres: heart attacks, strokes, car accidents - just to name a few.  Of course, the basis for these types of scenarios varies based on the circumstances, which brings forth a critical element that emergency medical technicians, paramedics and anyone else working in emergency medicine need to be well versed in all types of scenarios combined with a mentality that they will adapt to the circumstances as needed.

In emergency management, the basis of this issue is still the same. There is a general genre of issues that can take place, and a general map for how to manage such situations with the idea that adapting as the scenario unfolds is important to keeping the situation under control.   It is therefore, important to continue to train for the most common scenarios so personnel have a general idea of how to handle them.  While the general framework for handling emergencies is certainly in place, it should be noted that due to the nature of emergencies, strange events can happen, too.  These scenarios are called "wild card scenarios" in this article because they're rare and they're obscure. From a cost-benefit analysis, it doesn't make sense to train for these types of scenarios. But, there are a lot of great positive attributes from training for the wild card scenario.

Wild Card Scenario Training Promotes Critical Thinking

In cities, it would be a very rare event to deal with a cow or a horse stuck in the mud - which is often a scenario that plays out for those trained in Large Animal Technical Rescue in rural settings.  However, large animals in distress is actually a very concerning emergency scenario because of the dangers they present to people around them.  Training for this type of scenario in a city setting doesn't make a lot of sense from the cost-benefit analysis perspective, except for the fact that it generates critical thinking.  For those who work in city scenarios, learning how to rescue a large animal helps them to strategize rescues in a new way that leads to critical thinking and the need for adaptation. It also keeps the minds of emergency personnel contemplating new ways on how to handle difficult entrapment situations.

Wild Card Scenario Training Prepares for the Unexpected

Training for the unexpected refers to the notion that emergency managers and emergency personnel are training for obscure events that rarely happen in terms of what they usually expect for an emergency.  Training for earthquakes in Vermont, for example, may seem to be pointless since earthquakes rarely happen in Vermont. However, just recently an 1.8 earthquake was recorded in Vermont, and several years ago, a 5.1 earthquake was recorded in Vermont in 2002. It would have never been imagined that there would be an earthquake in Washington, DC, but a 5.8 earthquake struck in 2011. Wild card scenarios may have a low probability, but personnel should still prepare for them.

Emergency management is a complex world that requires versatility and the ability to adapt as a scenario unfolds. Wild card scenarios may never happen in a given area, but training for them provide ample opportunity for emergency personnel to further develop critical thinking skills while learning how to handle a strange situation that may not be within their normal emergency genre.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.