Monday, October 27, 2014

Being a victim

Blue sky. Bright sun. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for being a victim.

On a day when I normally would have been running or gardening or otherwise keeping busy, I spent hours laying on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport.

It was EPEX -- PHL's Emergency Preparedness Exercise -- and it was epic.

I had volunteered to be one of more than 100 mass casualty victims. The hardest part was getting to the staging area at 5:30 a.m. to be transformed. Or, as they call it, moulaged.

My assigned injuries placed me in the yellow triage category, meaning I didn't need immediate care but I wasn't walking away. My dislocated shoulder, abrasions and crushed hand (with third-degree burns) could wait for medical attention until after the red-tagged critical patients.

And while I waited, I saw emergency vehicles race to the scene. Firefighters, paramedics and other first responders rushed to assess the situation and take action. From my vantage point on the ground, I saw chaos transformed into order.

For me, it was a day of firsts. First moulage. First emergency drill as a volunteer for the Delaware County Medical Reserve Corps. First time laying down on airport tarmac. First stretcher. First ambulance ride. And, thankfully, first miracle cure: as soon as the ambulance pulled into the parking lot, I immediately returned to full health.

If only all mass casualty victims could be so lucky. At least with drills like this, first responders will be that much more practiced in what to do when things go bad in a big way.

What I found was that being a victim isn't so bad as long as you can leave the role behind when the exercise is over.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

5 reasons lists are passé

Blogs. Landing pages. Magazines. Newsletters. Brochures. All make use of a tried-and-true story format that has become, well, tired and worn-out.

I’m talking about lists:
-- 3 Signs Your Boss Hates You
-- 6 Strategies for a Wealthy Retirement
-- 5 Ways to Overcome Shyness
-- 4 Tricks to Lose Belly Fat

We’ve all seen them. And, if we’re writers, we’ve all used them. Over and over. For years and years.

Now it’s time to stop – and here are 5 reasons why:
  1. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is doing it…and doing it to death.
  2. List items are often based on FOBOs – flashes of the blindingly obvious.
  3. Who can retain so many points anyway? I’m good for one or two, tops. The rest make my eyes glaze over.
  4. C’mon, we’re adults here. Don’t we deserve cogent arguments and reasoned writing? Let’s leave the learn-by-numbers approach to the early childhood educators, where it makes sense.
  5. Some points are a real stretch, included only because another item is needed to reach that magic number promised in the headline.
The way to make your content stand out is to stop firing off bullet points and tell a compelling story.

Leave your lists for their best-suited purpose: going to the grocery store.