“Dr. Laura” Block obtained her doctor of pharmacy degree before calendars were invented. She attended her first Anime Weekend Atlanta in 1997, where she accidentally created the medical department that evolved into Usagi Medical Group.
Dr. Laura completed her hospital pharmacy practice degree in Brooklyn, NY, and worked for 3 years as a medical writer in Manhattan, which is why she took the September 11 terrorist attack a little personally. She joined the CA-4 DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team) in November of 2001, where she began her disaster training, and soon transferred to the GA-3 DMAT where training continued.
Dr. Laura became a lecturer on hospital all-hazards preparedness and internal radiation decontamination, and ruined everyone’s lunch by participating in a panel discussion about the risks associated with pandemic flu. She developed a passion for public health, where she began trying to save everyone from everything, using only condoms, hand sanitizer, and nicotine patches.
Dr. Laura continues her disaster education and experience as a district coordinator for Team Rubicon, and serves as Usagi Medical Group’s “Master of Disaster.”
Fire alarms go off. Evacuations happen. How do you prevent your disaster from turning into another disaster? If you run a convention, you’ve got to have a disaster plan. As a convention organizer, the responsibility lies with you to always be a step or two ahead, to build and regularly exercise a plan in conjunction with your venue and local law enforcement. Disaster planning: it’s the right thing to do.
Assessment and Planning
We at Usagi Medical Group have been there and done that. From vulnerability assessment and plan writing, to training, implementation, and revision. We’ve been studying mass gatherings and disasters for decades. We are familiar with common pinch points, pitfalls, and cautionary tales. We’ve constructed plans that have been used with great success. And even when things go really well, we assess afterwards and make improvements and adjustments.
Drill and Train
You can write the greatest plan in the world, but if you don’t continually train and drill your plan, no one will know what to do in an emergency. Training doesn’t have to be a big deal or a downer, it can be short, fun reminders of what to do when you-know-what hits the oscillating unit. You’ll notice that we don’t get into specifics here, because your needs are going to differ based on your event, and are influenced by your specific convention culture, your venue, and current events, and may require change from year to year.
So, Post-Con Depression is a real thing. I mean, you’re not going to find Post Con Blues in the DSM, but we know that coming down from the pure excitement and hilarity of the convention can leave one feeling temporarily worse than usual. Being surrounded by tons of fun, like-minded people, costumes, exhibits, panels, parties, your family of friends… What’s not to like? It’s hard to go back to real life after a weekend of escapism. Coming back to reality can underline some real feelings of sadness and discontent.
Cody Steavens started his health and safety interests within an Explorer’s Club in high school. “I was interested in the Fire Service side.” He soon became part of his local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Dive Team. “When I was old enough I signed up as a volunteer at my local Fire Department, and they later asked if I wanted a job there. Life moved me to better opportunities, but I miss working for the Fire Department all the time.” Truly, Cody openly wishes he could be a firetruck.
Steavens joined UsagiMed in 2014, returning annually for the Anime Weekend Atlanta events. He says, “I believe mental health is just as important as physical health but it’s often neglected. That’s why I like making people laugh and smile. If my being silly can help someone forget about their problems even for a minute then it’s not silly.”
Cody is very silly, and we love him for it. When he’s not working, Cody is actually into farming, gardening, and SCUBA diving (though not currently all at the same time). He’s also seriously into cooking and photography. And when he’s not doing that, you might find Cody getting into some Metal Gear Solid or Overwatch. “I also love watching Achievement Hunter on YouTube, and I enjoy a good action movie. Tom Clancy is one of my favorite authors.”
Usagi Medical Group has been busy planning for this weekend’s Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA). With over 30,000 guests in attendance, we expect to help close to 400 people with all manner of first-aid needs, and will be doing emergency medical response throughout the convention.
UsagiMed has also done extensive disaster planning for AWA, and we remain an integral part of crew training. In addition to general training, our personnel train AWA staff in CPR, disaster readiness, and even radio etiquette. These things help define the convention’s professional culture and commitment to the guest experience.
AWA is the place where UsagiMed was born. It’s like “going home” for the UsagiMed crew. If you’re at the con, please stop by and say Hello!
Greg Etheridge has been with UsagiMed for twelve years. Greg started working with Anime Weekend Atlanta with our very own Laura Block. (Back when UsagiMed was still called Bunnies Without Borders.) Greg says, “Before that, Laura and I worked as part of a federal-level, disaster medical response team. She brought me into her department at the con.”
Greg is a veteran of the U.S. Army and has worked in public safety for twenty-five years. He is a paramedic with the Fire Department and also works on his local SRT (SWAT) team. Greg is a state-certified fire, police and EMS instructor. He also serves as his department’s Deputy Fire Marshal… “So change your home detector batteries!”
When he isn’t working, Greg enjoys RPG games, Game of Thrones, and is a HUGE movie buff. He says, “If you want to watch some anime with me you will have to go old school.” Greg enjoys classic shows like Speed Racer, Star Blazers, and Battle Of The Planets. There is a good chance when you see a cosplayer in one of these costumes it will be Greg. Don’t hesitate to say hello.
Take your prescribed medicine. Take it as prescribed, even at con. The laws of medicine still apply, even during the most fun weekend of the year. And don’t take anyone else’s medicine.
Many of our patients are folks who forget to take their medications. Some forget to take them on time. Others simply didn’t bring their meds to the con, or were having so much fun they didn’t think to take them all day.
Bring Your Meds
We want your convention to be as fun as it can be, without interruption. I mean, we love you, but we don’t want to see you unless you’re inviting us to celebrate something. So remember to bring your meds, and remember to take them.
Create reminders Set an alarm, separate your meds into the compartments of a pillbox organizer or keep a daily log of prescriptions‚ including drug names and dosages. Such a document especially helps medical personnel to look at your medical requirements if you’re unable to walk us through them.
Plan ahead If you have an especially hectic day ahead of you, take extra care to establish reminders. Make a habit of taking your pills at the same time every day.
“Con Crud” (also known as “Con Plague”) is a broad term applied to any number of viruses or contagion you may pick up from others while you’re at a convention. The fact is, we all encounter all kinds of “crud” (germs, bacteria, and viruses) on a daily basis. Our bodies generally do an amazing job of fighting off these invaders every day. BUT, when you’re staying awake all night, gaming, partying, and reveling with your friends over meals comprised of pocky and red bull, your immune system taps out, and all the “crud” can have its nefarious way with you.
You’d be surprised how many times someone shows up at Usagi Medical Group (UMG) with problems that could be avoided for the want of adequate water.
We get it. You’re walking around a lot at the convention, surrounded by tons of other warm bodies, and you’re having a great time. We know it’s hard to overlook the water thing when you’re having so much fun. But if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. If you continue to ignore your thirst, you may feel tired, have muscle cramps, dizziness, or other serious symptoms.
Drink water, not an energy drink.Always have water on hand, and don’t forget to drink it. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy.
UMG makes sure there are water stations throughout the con, and that hotel staff will replenish them on request.