Safety or Good Samaritan?
This article appeared on “The Baby Spot” last Thursday. Here is the direct link (please give The Baby Spot and my article some love on their page also):
As a parent you strive for teaching points to your children as they age but aren’t the best teaching points accidental?
Recently, while in upstate New York, my sons and I decided to explore the Devil’s Hole area. This area is ripe with histories of native and English clashes and a brutal massacre. It is also amazingly green and the Niagara River is so beautiful!
This hike wasn’t my normal, take off in the mountains, blaze my own trail hike but I will say this hike definitely has some challenges. From the beginning, you descended man made stairs that cling to the cliff from the top to the river level. This hike follows closely the route natives used to carry their canoes from the river and eventually to the other side of the Niagara Falls so they could continue their journey’s.
After our descent and long trek following the river we started ascending the cliff to head back to the top. About half way up we heard a dog ‘yapping’ quite aggressively. At first, I thought it was some of the dogs we had encountered along the way but as we continued our climb I began to sense something wasn’t right. It seemed to have an aggressive or stressed tone to its bark.
When approaching a possible incident most people have one of three reactions: 1) Freeze or be paralyzed to action toward the situation, 2) React immediately and offer aid or protection, or 3) avoid the situation and keep moving. I don’t want to get into the first or last reactions for purposes of my point. I wanted to write this for those that would react to a situation by rendering some form of help.
The dog continued to bark as we approached and as we rounded a switch back I immediately saw a woman lying in the path. She wasn’t unconscious but even from a distance I saw dexterity issues. Since I still had to continue up to her location, it gave me time to assess that there was no visible blood or trauma. I also noted the little Pomeranian had a green vest on, commonly on service dogs. Making sure my sons were adequately behind me, I whispered to my sons, keep your eyes open and stay close. I told my son that was bringing up the rear to keep an eye around us.
As we approached the woman, I could see she was steadily going downhill with speech, eye movement, and dexterity loss. She did however have enough ability to convey that her blood sugar had drastically dropped. The situation was escalating with every second the woman didn’t get help and if she hadn’t been found sooner I’m sure she’d lost conscience.
I will skip the aid portion as this isn’t a first aid article. We got her some sugar and assisted her up to her van. Additionally, being a populated area, there was a ranger we had passed on our trek who we located to take over getting the woman for further medical care.
Obviously, this situation worked out and I handled most of it based on instinct and training but there is some major concerns and red flags here I used as teaching points to my sons. How do you be a good Samaritan safely?
When approaching a situation, it is so easy to focus all your attention to the “need or issue”. This is referred to commonly as “Tunnel Vision”. Coming from a law enforcement/investigative angle the whole damsel in distress, or any distress for that matter, can easily be a set up for a robbery, kidnapping or worse. I’m betting many reading this didn’t even think about this until now. This is very important to consider. In my case, it wasn’t just me to worry about, but the safety of my sons.
I will tell you a couple things that stood out to me right away in this incident. First, the woman was wearing a bikini top. Now on the west coast, of the United States, this would be nothing but after two full days of running around upstate New York, I think my sons and I were the only ones with our shirts off, let alone just seeing a woman in a barely there top like this on a trail. Secondly, she seemed “placed” in the trail almost strategically where the possibility of her having someone with her who could be hidden was a big possibility. There were probably a few other things that I instinctively picked up on but I don’t want to get this turned into a gender bias read or anything off track. Lastly, the woman suffering from a debilitating sugar drop doesn’t have a pack with her? I will say that I have been around people that had no idea they’d have a blood sugar issue but this lady had a service dog so why was she so ill prepared?
In closing, we must not lose sight of being a good Samaritan. It is so easy in our day and age to keep walking. This situation ended up being legitimate but I made it a point to make sure we were safe.
Here are a few simple tips:
Keep Calm. If you get frazzled externally then those in your party will also. Sure, your heart might be beating out of your chest but remember to breath, move as slowly as you need, and take it all in by utilizing all of your senses.
Protect Yourself. Priority number one is protect yourself. You are no good to the situation if you are hurt, you are incapacitated, if you are at anything less than 100% the situation is bound for failure.
Distance. Be aware of distances. Don’t be afraid to align people in your party to where you think they are safe or at a position of advantage.
Disadvantages. Pick out areas that you might be at a disadvantage if this situation is not as it seems. In our case, we had shrubbery and flat areas around the trail that hadn’t been anywhere like this on our way back up the cliff. These places were adequate for someone to be hiding.
Don’t be politically correct. In times of emergencies please use universal precautions. The term for universal precautions comes from first responders and the assumption that every person you come in contact potentially has an illness or disease. When I’m referring to Universal Precautions I’m combining the medical side with the aspect of phyiscal safety. Ask yourself questions about what you are seeing. In our case I immediately recognized the woman’s dress, lack of preparedness, odd animal for a service dog, potential for threats, etc.
Render Aid. Don’t let the fear of an attack cripple your humanity. Render the aid. Do what you were set in that moment to do. It wasn’t chance you happened upon a situation. I believe your set upon certain things in your life because you are worthy of that moment. There is no right or wrong answer to an emergency…just act. Do something.
Get help. Just because an initial dive into an emergency doesn’t prove to be a hoax or a set up doesn’t mean that it still might not be. Work to stabilize the situation and get help. The more people you get involved the less likely a bad scenario will be afoot.
Lastly, when it is all done and your walking away assess it and learn from it. I guarantee you will learn something, have made some mistakes, or want to do something different with hindsight. All of that is okay.
My friends when we treat our fellow human with kindness and care it makes the whole world better. That doesn’t mean we have to haphazardly put our self and others in danger. Unfortunately, there are many people in this world who wish nothing but harm upon others. Don’t be the victim but help the victim.
You can read about the hike on my blog: https://jaxmenezatwell.com/devils-hole/
Facebook: Jax Menez Atwell
Thanks for that! I wouldn’t even think to use such caution in a situation like that but I will now.
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Thank you! 🙂
You bring up MANY good points in this post. Offering assistance is important, but it is equally important to do so INTELLIGENTLY. There are plenty of crazy people in the world and one must guard oneself from this fact to prevent unintended self harm. The idea of extending oneself to help others in a manner that reduces the chances of self injury is STILL an offering of assistance.
This post should be read in its entirety because many important points would likely be missed by the average person. Thank you for sharing how you handled this!
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Thank you sir! It was a great teaching point to my sons! In my law enforcement days we’d say if you don’t get there safely you are no help to anyone. It’s the same concept!
Great article!! In first response emergency medicine one of the things I would have to ask myself, “Is the scene safe” ? You go WAY beyond that. Such an informative article.
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