The Australian Practitioners Emergency Response Network (APERN) exists to help frontline emergency workers fulfill their duties in an emergency/critical incident and to support volunteers and victims in a caring and compassionate way. It emerged from the events of Black Saturday, the 8th February, 2009 when extensive bush fires in resulted in over 200 deaths.
All practitioners are volunteers, the majority of those at the work face being qualified individuals from alternate health disciplines such as massage therapy, Shiatsu, Reiki, Bowen, sports massage, chiropractor, physiotherapist etc; some practitioner volunteers are advanced students. In addition there are many volunteers assisting with matters such as administration and transport of practitioners and their equipment. There is no restriction on who might volunteer except that treatment provided must be consistent with qualifications and experience.
The ultimate goal is a network of practitioner and support volunteers who rapidly respond to emergencies in a flexible manner that is appropriate for both the circumstances and the culture of those being assisted.
To provide a rapid response to emergencies and critical incidents that is flexible and adapts to circumstances with due regard to assistance required and resources available while taking advice from local leaders/workers and recognizing the over arching clear and unequivocal authority of the Incident/Emergency Controller (usually the police).
• Always recognizing the clear and unequivocal authority of the Incident/Emergency Controller (usually the police) and taking directives as required.
• Always consulting with and taking advice from local leaders and workers.
• Flexible, realizing that we cannot control an emergency response and that the pathways to achieve our mission will always change.
• Using skills and resources appropriate to the situation, while being flexible and recognizing that different techniques may be used by volunteers.
• Highest ethical and professional standards and actions, with compliance to our protocols, standard of documentation, confidentiality and code of ethics.
• Aware of the need to look after each other and be supportive and helpful at all times, recognizing that volunteers may become stressed due to the emotional nature of the emergency, hard work and lack of sleep, and accordingly be tolerant of other volunteers.
• Aware of the need to maintain a reasonably balanced life style during the emergency, with due regard for personal needs.
• Aware that professional counseling may be required for self and others.
• Accountable, fulfilling our responsibilities and obligations with fairness & honesty while being aware of cultural differences
• A frugal culture, but not to the extent of unnecessarily hindering spending
• Treating people with respect and dignity in the care/services we provide and the relationships we nurture
• Maintaining focus on mission, objectives and any targeted outcomes
• Constantly seeking to increase our knowledge by reflecting on our past experiences, as well as discovering new approaches
• Making a difference by providing real benefits to people with real needs
• Forming collaborative partnerships with member, Government and other like-minded organizations
• When and where possible, measuring outputs and recording outcomes to the extent possible without prejudicing the intended outcome.
• Vigilant to ensure that unqualified people are not allowed to provided treatment beyond their capabilities and experience.
• Recognition that a “100% solution” may be inappropriate as speed could be of the essence, and hence rapid deployment may require compromise.
• Learning from experience with each emergency to modify processes as required, and to ensure the APERN Manual is updated appropriately.
• Risk aware, ensuring that all volunteers are aware that neither Hands On Health nor APERN provide insurance, and as such practitioners and those involved with transport in the area of the emergency will need to be advised to notify their insurance provider of their involvement.
• To establish and document a formal APERN committee for each specific emergency/incident.
• To utilize the existing APERN Manual as a basis for a Manual appropriate for the specific emergency.
• To use the data base and other lists of relevant individuals to locate and rapidly deploy the group of volunteers in a structure based on that in the APERN Manual, with Coordinators appointed as deemed appropriate by the APERN Committee.
• To establish close ties with organizations such as the Police Force, CFA, SES, Salvation Army, Society of St Vincent de Paul, Rotary International and other bodies who are active in providing support during the emergency
• To ensure that the best possible care and support are provided commensurate with resources available and demand
• To collect and share quality advice on treatment of our customers
• Where feasible and where possible, to create and foster links amongst the customers by providing opportunities for interaction
• To foster and maintain links that help us achieve our mission.
• To achieve our mission through innovation and influence.
• To ensure the data base is updated between emergencies.
• To ensure the APERN Manual is updated as and when required to reflect the benefit of experience.
The next page is a schematic chart showing the structure as it seems to be emerging from the February 2009 bush fires in Victoria. As can be seen, the APERN Committee is a Hands On Health Australia Board Committee (As a Board Committee there needs to be at least two Directors from Hands On Health. If there are no HOHA Directors it will be a HOHA Board Sub-committee.) The following chart is as applied by the second week of the fires.