Puerto Rico has history, great beaches, natural beauty and El Yunque – America’s only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System (…and home to bouncing frogs!) Vieques Island has nature reserves and bioluminescent waters. Oh, yeah, and Puerto Rico has Kathy’s Mom, sister and nephews who moved there to live la vida loca. We will be heading there this fall. Can’t wait!
As part of our traveling, both of us have our strengths and our weaknesses, but combined, we make a good team. Dave’s primary job description is Planning Section Chief and, eventually, Operations Section Chief in charge of implementing the Travel Management Plan (TMP). He also dips a bit into the Logistics Section, including one of the most important parts of the job, the duties of Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. After all, this is how he made a living at Adirondack Medical Center: writing, planning, and preparing for every likely emergency. We have worked on our Hazard Vulnerability Analysis before each trip. Historically, we have had some successes and some failures.
After each trip, we do an After Action Review to see: 1) What did we expect, 2) What actually happened, 3) What went well, and 4) Where can we improve. This has helped Dave be prepared for things like Kathy’s bout with dysentery (all hail, the Z-pack!), her allergic reaction to shellfish (thank goodness for Benadryl and the Epi-pen which was poised to be deployed), and his own bout with food poisoning (gotta love Zofran!) These are some of his excellent successes as the Medical Unit Leader. As part of our planning, we also build in an extra day or two upon arrival before any tours, cruises, or events begin in order to mitigate any delays in flights (part of Kathy’s job as the Air Operations Branch Manager!) This has the added bonus of giving us some extra time to explore the area at a leisurely pace and get accustomed to the new time zone. We also store our most critical items in our carry-on packs, including a spare change of clothes.
But, of course, we have had some failures, including the most epic one: not planning for a global pandemic. As Monty Python so accurately said “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” How could we have expected a global pandemic?? Okay, it was one of the potential risks identified in our Hazard Vulnerability Assessment, but way down the list of “what might happen”, so far down, like way down on the list. Learning from past mistakes and successes, Dave decided to take his preparedness to a higher level. As part of the checklist and planning for our upcoming trip to southern Africa, we updated our vaccinations (RSV, typhoid, and COVID/FLU), renewed our prescriptions for anti-malarials, and refilled our meds to treat things like dysentery, nausea, anaphylaxis, asthma, and traveler’s diarrhea, just in case.
All boxes have been checked. We are a walking pharmacy! Next, we updated our packing lists to prepare for our 23-hour trip (each way), including one flight that is 16 hours alone! We have checked and double-checked the plans, verified our trip details, contacted the travel agency to verify details, registered with STEP (the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), alerted our credit card companies that we will be out of the country, downloaded the airline’s app, completed a spreadsheet that has all the details of the trip along w/any confirmation numbers needed for our travels, and made copies of our passports, health insurance cards, and travel insurance.
Last, but not least, Dave planned a table top exercise for our next upcoming trip to Africa. The table-top exercise is designed to test our response to every possible eventuality that could happen while traveling in the National Parks of Africa. The table-top exercise planned was not exactly what Kathy expected…. she is pretty sure that this won’t happen while we are on our trip (but she didn’t think a global pandemic was upcoming either!) But just in case, we are now prepared for the eventuality of utter chaos!! (See the photo of our table-top scenario.)