Monday, February 14, 2011

Shake Rattle and Roll

Originally I started writing this blog as an avenue to record the lesson plans I have festering in my cerebral cortex into a form more accessible to others. However as of late I’ve been asking more questions than providing answers which, for me, is a healthy place to be because I find that asking questions keeps me interested and engaged. Some of the themes that I would enjoy clarification on are very high level, or strategic in nature, and appear beyond my immediate application as a Ranger however I find it difficult to be aligned with the organization unless I understand my role within it. Thus it is important to ask questions and find the people that can provide you with a clear answer.
As a facilitator I have coordinated and led numerous sessions for government and industry. The key to success in every one of these facilitated sessions was to create an innovative environment where the participants could brain storm priorities, identify possibilities, flesh out some solutions and explore relationships.
How do you create an atmosphere of innovation? We all know ‘what’ we do and some of us even know ‘how’ we do it but very few of us know ‘why’ we are doing it. My facilitation work is designed to identify ‘Why’ you are doing something before exploring the ‘How’ and ‘What’ aspects of the work.
People don’t care what you do, they care about why you do it
What you do defines that which you believe
I see this as being one of the fundamental differences between being a leader and leading. People that believe what you believe will sweat blood and tears to achieve success. They won’t be doing this for you as their leader, they will be doing this for themselves.
So let me tell you what I believe and if you are similarly minded then that can be a powerful thing.
Let us start with an open ended question...
What in your opinion is the single biggest domestic concern, threat or enemy that BC Rangers should be prepared for?
You may have an answer that is very different to mine because your familiarity of the concerns in play may be very different to mine. But for me, one of the biggest things that I believe we need to pay attention to is the impending mega-thrust earthquake along the Juan de Fuca Plate with a focus on the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast of Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Fault to the north.
Subduction Zone earthquakes are the largest earthquakes in the world, and can exceed magnitude 9.0. Earthquake size is proportional to fault area, and the Cascadia Subduction Zone is a very long sloping fault that stretches from Vancouver Island to Northern California. It separates the Juan de Fuca and North America plates. Because of the very large fault area, the Cascadia Subduction Zone could produce a very large earthquake, magnitude 9.0 or greater if the rupture occurred over its whole area.

The following is from Wikipedia
Geologists suspect that Haiti’s destructive quake resulted from 250 years of seismic stress that has been building up between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates. In fact, a group of U.S. geologists presented a study in the Dominican Republic (which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti) in 2008 saying that the region was at impending risk of an earthquake potentially even bigger than a magnitude 7.0 quake. Part of their presentation is particularly chilling in light of what happened less than two years later: “This means that the level of built-up stress and energy in the earth could one day be released resulting in an earthquake measuring 7.2 or more on the Richter Scale. This would be an event of catastrophic proportions in a city [Port-au-Prince] with loose building codes, and an abundance of shanty-towns built in ravines and other undesirable locations.”
Earthquakes are still impossible to predict with precision; in the words of one of the geologists who predicted the Haiti quake, “It could have been the next day, it could have been 10 years, it could have been 100… This is not an exact science.” But researchers have identified a handful of seismic zones around the globe that are storing up especial amounts of stress and are particularly hazardous and we are next to one of them. U.S. scientists are now saying that there is a 10 to 15 per cent chance a mega-earthquake will strike along the coast of BC in the next 50 years. 50 years from now, that number will rise to 85 percent.
“Perhaps more striking than the probability numbers is that we can now say that we have already gone longer without an earthquake than 75 per cent of the known times between earthquakes in the last 10,000 years," Prof. Chris Goldfinger, marine geologist with the Oregon State University,
  1. What should the priority be?
  2. What should we do to prepare at the Patrol level?
  3. Should a mega thrust earthquake hit our community what would our role be?
  4. What happens if the transport corridors collapse?
  5. What happens if food and clean drinking water run out?
  6. How do we organize if conventional communication devices (telephones / internet) are down?
  7. How do we organize?
  8. Electricity is expected to be down a long time – what are the repercussions?
  9. Do we have a standing operating procedure to address these things?
  10. What might our role look like should we be called to ‘Aid to Civil Power’

All great questions spark colourful dialogue and get us ready. It is our due diligence to use our imaginations and provide some basic tools for success.
On Feb 21st 2011 a magnitude 6.3 earthquake occured just off the coastline of Christchurch, NZ. Prayers to everyone down there.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Your canteen is empty, you’re miles from camp, it’s hot and you are perspiring, you’re thirsty and so are the other Rangers in your recce team. The only water you have been able to find is murky, dark and smells. You and your team need water. Heat exhaustion has become a concern and your fellow Rangers are showing signs of fatigue. What are you going to do?

During WW2 commonwealth soldiers took a terrible toll in the jungles of South East Asia. Many soldiers were lost to enemy action and many were avoidably lost to the jungle itself. Soldiers eventually learned the vital lessons of water management as one of the key tiers of maintaining an effective fighting force. Long term exposure to the jungle environment and infected water devastated morale and made simple physical tasks overwhelmingly difficult. Severe intestinal pain, nausea, fever and explosive diarrhoea killed soldiers every day because they were ingesting water heavily infected with protozoa.

Although British Columbia’s temperate rainforest is pale in comparison to the jungles of New Guinea and Burma we do have similar issues with water sources infected with water borne protozoa. Water management discipline must be observed when living off the land.

All creatures great and small require water to survive. However not all creatures have the same intestinal sensitivity that human beings do. There are numerous agents and protozoa that occupy water in BC – especially slow or still water features. Aside from the obvious filtering requirements to remove contaminants such as organic detritus and debris we must pay special attention to protozoa. Therefore I am dedicating this short article to managing Giardia and Cryptosporidium – two of British Columbia’s most common forms or waterborne protozoa.

Risk Assessment.
We might not know we’re doing it but we do a quick assessment as to the safe nature of the drinking water around us before we “Dip-in”. We perform a quick evaluation of the water feature and look for clues or indicators that will help us evaluate the palatability of the water before we drink it.

·         What is the clarity of the water;
·         Is there high animal (especially beaver) traffic in the area;
·         Highly oxygenated water (fast to moderate current) or Poorly oxygenated water (slow or still current);
·         Close to the edge of the lake (warm & shallow) or interior to the lake (cold & deep); 
·         Clean gravel bed or does the feature have fines, silt suspension, detritus and possibly water insect activity;

We evaluate all of these things before dipping our canteen into the water and rehydrating ourselves. When in doubt we must assume the water is not entirely healthy to drink and requires some rigour before we can safely ingest it.

What are waterborne protozoa?
·         Giardia and Cryptosporidium are microscopic, protozoan parasites that can be found in water contaminated with the feces of infected animals.
·         Giardia is often found in human, beaver, muskrat, and dog feces. In humans, Giardia causes an intestinal illness called giardiasis or "beaver fever". Cryptosporidium is responsible for a similar illness called cryptosporidiosis.
·         Giardia and Cryptosporidium parasites produce cysts that are very resistant to harsh environmental conditions. When ingested, they germinate, reproduce, and cause illness. After feeding, the parasites form new cysts, which are then passed in the feces. Studies have shown that ingestion of only a few cysts will cause illness in humans.

How many protozoa before I get sick?
·         It takes (on average) a total of 19 cysts in a glass of water to infect a human being. An infected glass of water can contain thousands of cysts and can still appear clear and free of contaminants or parasites to the human eye.
·         The risk of becoming infected depends on:
o   The number of viable cysts ingested (dose)
o   The virulence of the ingested cysts
o   The susceptibility of the host to a blooming infection

How long do I have before I feel the effects?
·         Once ingested  it normally takes between 6-16 days before the victim starts to feel ill. Cryptosporidium takes effect between 4-9 days as its life cycle is faster acting.

What will my symptoms be?
·         Depending on the dosage of protozoa and the strength of your immune system you will experience varying degrees of:
o   Nausea
o   Anorexia
o   Bloating
o   Discomfort in the upper intestine
o   Malaise
o   Fever & chills
o   Onset of sudden and explosive diarrhoea
o   Watery and foul smelling stools
o   Weight loss
o   Fatigue
o   Rotten egg burps that smell like hydrogen sulphide are typical
·         Immune compromised people (or young children) may be in distress for an average of 30 days. In these situations it is possible for the victim to die from the infection is improperly diagnosed or ignored for too long.
·         Healthy individuals will usually clear their symptoms in 10-15 days assuming they are no longer ingesting infected water.
·         Giardia and Cryptosporidium can be transmitted from person to person via. poor hygiene, food handling and sexual practices.

What is the treatment?
·         Anti-parasitic drugs are available but only through prescription from your physician however these have very limited effects. Anti-diarrheal drugs and re-hydration therapy may also be useful. If you are suffering from diarrhoea and suspect that your symptoms may be due to Giardia or Cryptosporidium, visit your physician and mention any exposure you may have had to water, food, or feces that may have been contaminated by the parasites.
·         The best treatment is education and knowing how no to get infected!

·         Giardia and Cryptosporidium are not killed by common chemical treatments such as iodine & chlorine (especially cryptosporidium).
·         Cryptosporidium is a parasite with cysts smaller than that of a red blood cell of 7 microns where-as Giardia have cysts of 10 or more microns.
·         Water filters can be effective by straining out protozoa but the filter must remove particles that are less than or equal to one micron in diameter to be safe.
·         Boiling water for more than one minute is the ONLY safe way on ingesting running surface wate.

In Closing
It is tough enough surviving in the bush when you are healthy. More often than not we take our health for granted and under appreciate it when we have it. I have been sick in bush camps situated in remote locations before and I can tell you with absolute certainly that you don’t want to be in that situation if you can avoid it. Please take water management discipline with you when you head out the bush for work or play. Teach it to others – educate the unaware. Accomplish the mission.