Remembering MTAC

We’re friends, right? Bear with me, here. I’m not going to tell you not to drink. If you’re 21 or over, partying sometimes means the consumption of deleterious substances. And that’s fine. Just one quick question: How do you set your limits?

“We don’t need no stinkin’ limits!” you exclaim, muttering something about your plans for MTAC. Let me tell you a story. It’s not the story about the people who left the convention and died in a drunk-driving accident. It’s not the story about the cosplayer who was sexually assaulted while drunk. No, my story for you is not even about a convention. It is about a guy I saw at a very expensive concert. I was working security in the pit. Sitting right in front of me, this dude’s seat must have cost over $800. You read that right. Eight hundred dollars. The thing is, that guy was drunk when he showed up, and he passed out during the opening act. He spent all that money and he won’t remember a thing.

UMG wants this MTAC to be one you remember. You’re among friends, and you deserve to have a ton of solidly wonderful memories with them. My UMG compatriots don’t want you to be one of the many folks that we have to pick up (often from puddles of their own filth) and have transported to the hospital. You don’t want that. And we don’t want that.

MTAC 2016

MTAC is our favorite time of the year. In some ways, it’s almost like Christmas! We wait for it all year, like excited grade-school kids, counting down the days and hours, looking forward to the fun and the parties. We want to pack the maximum into every minute we have, making memories and telling stories for the rest of the year, until MTAC comes around again.

Honor yourself. Make this MTAC one you will remember. Set your limits. Honor your limits. Take tons of pictures, and share them with us. Drink responsibly. Have fun with your friends. Enjoy the con! And then go safely home to remember it.

Should You Go Alone?

There are plenty of ongoing, online conversations questioning whether or not you should attend a convention alone. We say YES! Go and enjoy yourself. There is no denying there is safety in numbers, but there is nothing wrong with going to a convention alone. You should absolutely talk to strangers! Have fun! Make some new friends!

Road trippin’.

First of all, remember: If this is a “road trip” for you, know that your vehicle will make it there (and back). You know how we always say to break in your shoes before coming to con? You should also give your car, cat-bus, hovercraft, or Go-Go-Gadget copter the once-over about a week before the convention. Keep a break-down plan that doesn’t require you to have a charged phone battery.

But when you get there? You’re at con! Your job is to have fun, enjoy yourself, make new friends, and tell everyone you know about how awesome the con is. Generally speaking, conventions are very safe environments. They’re usually indoors, self-contained, with plenty of friendly staff and helpful folks.

If you’re part of a group but choose to split off and do your own thing, it does make some sense to have regular check-ins scheduled with your group. Maybe it’s a simple phone call. Maybe it’s an agreement to check in at midnight or something. But for safety’s sake, this small measure remains a good idea.

Similarly, if you’ve come to the con solo, it makes some sense to have a periodic check-in with someone back home. A family member or a friend. You don’t like your family and you have no friends? Okay, how about a neighbor? Your neighbors are jerks? Alright then, a co-worker. You don’t work? Then how about your third grade math teacher?

Seriously, there’s an app for that.

At the con, a little situational awareness certainly helps. This can be hard at conventions, because as the Cheshire Cat once said, “We’re all a little bit mad here.” Each Fandom has its own quirks, so how do you know who is trouble? Trust your instincts. Exercise the same caution that you would if you were out at a bar. If a situation doesn’t feel right to you, politely excuse yourself and get to a safer place. Know how to recognize con staffers and where to get help. The UsagiMed station is always a “safe space” for everyone.

An UsagiMed History Lesson

November 15, 1997 was when it all started.

An old friend had given Laura Block a free pass to attend the third year of Anime Weekend Atlanta. She recalls: “That Saturday night at the dance, a member of our merry band of misfits sprained his ankle pogo-dancing.” She wrapped and iced the ankle, and a department was born.

At first we seemed to be called, “Dr. Laura, HEEEEELP!” By 2002, we were busy enough that we could justify bringing in more medically-trained crew and housing them onsite, so we became “AWA Medical.” Our first members were all part of the GA-3 DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team), but when Hurricane Rita hit in 2005, the GA-3 DMAT team was almost deployed to Texas. Laura was *this close* to working AWA by herself. So we began to cast our net wider for volunteers.  Today, we work with close to 40 certified and credentialed volunteers.  (And we’re always welcoming of more potential Bunnies. Please contact us if you’re interested in working with us.)

UMG first responders fill a necessary gap for conventions and event planners.

AWA Medical became “Bunnies Without Borders” in 2014. In 2016, we hit a wall: we were required by a venue to obtain an insurance policy for the entire department, instead of just relying on our own individual liability policies. But the annual cost of that policy for a 25-member team was more than our annual budget had ever been. In 2017, we spun off as Usagi Medical Group (Usagi is Japanese for “rabbit”), an LLC run by John Plaxco (CEO), Raymond Files (Director of Operations), Mickey Desai (New Business Development), and Laura Block (Master of Disaster). We began talking to other conventions within a 500 mile radius of Atlanta with whom to partner.

Just one week ago, the ink dried on a partnership between Middle Tennessee Anime Convention (MTAC), and we are tickled pink! Keep an ear out for more announcements on the different cons we’ll be attending, and please drop us a note if you would like us to work at your favorite convention!

Crew Bio: Dr. Laura Block

The woman, the myth, the legend.

“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.”

Sirens!

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.

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.

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.

We can help you get started on a plan that will be uniquely tailored to your event and your needs. Call on us to help you get ready and avoid catastrophe.

Post Con Blues

So, Post-Con Depression is a real thing. I mean, you’re not going to find it 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.

There are some things you can do to make the transition back to reality a little easier. Many of these things are purely physical. Even if you followed the 5-2-1 Rule, you may simply need more sleep. It doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re properly hydrated, so drink water, and lots of it. Make sure you’re eating right. Get out of the house for a bit. A quick walk and some sunlight are known mood stabilizers.

Plan social events with your friends. If you’re anything like me, you miss your friends after the con. Chances are they’re having similar feelings. Don’t be afraid to talk openly about those feelings. A little shared empathy goes a long way to making things better. If your friends aren’t available, join a Meetup or find activities with like-minded people. New friends means more future fun. That last sentence sounds like it should be a bumper sticker or something. The point is, you can always redefine your circumstances to make the next day better.

While you’re at it, buy an advance registration for next year’s con. Knowing it is on the horizon (and making plans to do fun things there) can keep you buoyed and optimistic. Besides, you’re almost sure to save some money by doing an advance registration, and your con will thank you for your early patronage. (Be sure to tell them they need to bring Usagi Medical Group to their con.)

This is going to sound weird, but my recommendation is that you stay away from your television. Don’t binge-watch Death Note. Yeah. You read that right. For a while after the con, avoid activities that keep you isolated for too long. Isolation is the opposite of what you need, and what you need is a little social contact. Yes, even for an introvert. Watching your television leaves you “on the outside” of character interactions. This makes loneliness worse. Being in touch with people keeps you “on the inside” of such interactions.

I’m also going to tell you that an actual phone call is preferred to doing the Snapchat thing, or texting, or Tweeting. Sure, those things count as social interaction, but they seem impersonal compared to a phone call. You could organize a Skype session or a Google Hangout, or even a Discord “server.” I don’t mean to say that any of these things are bad. Reaching out to touch someone is simply good medicine.

But the key word in that first paragraph is “temporary.” If you find your dysphoria lingers for more than a few weeks, please do the powerful thing and talk to someone about those feelings. Maybe your body is trying to tell you something. There’s never any harm in being proactive with one’s emotions.

Crew Bio: Cody Steavens

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.”

This Week: Anime Weekend Atlanta

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!

Crew Bio: Joshua Law

UsagiMed’s Joshua Law joined us in 2014. Josh says, “Whether it’s working a convention, getting training for work, or just having a first-aid kit, I’ve been doing something First Aid / Safety related for over twenty-two years.” Josh got started in Boy Scouts at the age of eleven, earning his Eagle Scout at eighteen, and he is a veteran of the U. S. Navy. Josh earned his EMT-B in 2016 to go along with his first aid, first responder, and CPR certifications.

“My dad was a missionary, and took me along on more than one trip, domestically and internationally. As a result, I fell in love with other cultures, and enjoy learning all I can about them.” When it comes to fandom, Josh is into RPG’s, crafting games, and anime. “I love Miyazaki, but Trigun is my favorite series.” In his spare time, you might find Josh finishing a woodworking project, playing ARC, or reading.