Staying healthy during emergencies

4 keys to staying strong in a crisis

Every shift you work has the potential for a crisis. Whether faced with an inmate riot, hostage situation or officer down, corrections staff must be ever ready to act effectively in an emergency. In crisis situations, the mind must stay sharp and the body agile.

But the intense focus required by crises make it is easy to neglect even the most basic health principles.

In a stressful situation, your body pours hormones into the bloodstream to engage in fighting or fleeing from danger. These hormones rev the pulse and respiratory rate while slowing digestion. As blood is shunted to the large muscles it is drained from lesser-needed ones.

(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Here are several strategies for staying healthy during engagement in a prolonged emergency or other high-alert situation in the workplace.

Stay Hydrated — Your mind and body runs on water! Becoming dehydrated can lead to fuzzy thinking and weak actions. Be sure to drink often – at least every 2 hours – to stay in top form. A good rule of thumb is a full glass every hour. One way to determine if you are getting enough fluid is to monitor urine output. Light colored urine indicates good hydration. Urine darker than your morning urine indicates possible dehydration. Step up your fluid intake if dark urine is seen at any restroom pit stop. Any fluid will work; it does not need to be plain water.

Eat Healthy — Junk food is not the optimum fuel in an emergency. High fat and high sugar can make your mind and body sluggish. Look for a good balance of protein and carbohydrates with a small amount of fat for staying power. Consider keeping peanut butter or cheese and crackers in a work locker for those times you must be at emergency alert status for long periods.

A Little (not a lot) of Caffeine — Studies have shown that a moderate amount of caffeine (equivalent to 1-2 cups of regular coffee) enhances thinking and physical action. However, too much caffeine can have an opposite effect. Use caffeine in moderation during an emergency.

10 Second Stretch — Even in an emergency situation, take ten seconds every 90 minutes or so to actively stretch all large muscles, especially the tension-holding shoulders and neck. Take deep breaths in through the nose and out through pursed lips to slow your pulse and oxygenate your blood. Stretching will keep you loose and agile, reduce muscle soreness and decrease tension.

Paying attention to your own health in a corrections emergency will pay big dividends to you and your custody colleagues. You will sustain your alertness and increase your stamina to handle whatever comes your way.


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