When I joined the Red Cross I learned about the 3 F’s of Emergency: the so-called Fight-Flight-Freeze response.

Flight stands for fleeing the scene, run away when faced with a stressful scenario. Fleeing from a dangerous situation is a survival instinct and the body’s automatic response for most people when they’re faced with something frightening.

Freeze stands for freezing when faced with a dangerous situation; the panic is so much that you literally standstill as if you freeze in time.
My favorite response is Fight! Fighting doesn’t mean you’re not scared, for the contrary – you use your fear for something positive.
The fighting response can only happen if you’re informed and know what you are doing. Imagine there is a small fire on your stove:

• you run away and go outside (well then you’re the whole house gets burned because you fled);
• you freeze and stand still (well then you get burned too because you froze);
• you fight by putting some water or a blanket on top (you just saved yourself, your house and those around you).

When the COVID-19 outbreak started happening in Portugal I saw young people “disappearing”. Red Cross volunteers themselves, my own friends. Volunteers didn’t bother to ask how they could be of use if there was any help needed.

With the development of the situation and the rise of the numbers, the workload at the Red Cross grew and is growing daily.
I have been coordinating local volunteers, delivering food and medicines to people who are vulnerable and/or in self-isolation, delivering food to families and individuals in need (low income, homeless, refugees) and supporting the local Civil Protection.

The bottom line and my biggest lesson from this pandemic outbreak are that skills are teachable but behaviors aren’t. Meaning: you can be the most qualified person in the world but if you don’t put your skills to use when they are needed the most, they really are worth nothing.

I have been learning that life and what you make of it are more about what you do than what you know.

Susana Costa
Portuguese Red Cross
April 13, 2020