Weathering the Storm: Instructors' Resilience in the Face of Super Typhoon Mawar


OSHA Training During a Category 4 Hurricane

In May 2023, two dedicated OSHA instructors embarked on a journey to the Pacific island of Guam, a trip that would test their mettle in ways they could never have anticipated.

A storm approached as Kimberly Counts and Rudy Schroeder set out to provide crucial training in Guam for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. They found themselves facing a group of eager students excited to greet UC San Diego Extended Studies once again, and the unexpected arrival of Super Typhoon Mawar. The Typhoon turned Counts and Schroeder’s journey into a tale of survival, determination, and resilience.

Schroeder, an experienced instructor who had traveled widely, had visited Guam once before, but only briefly and decades prior. On this visit, he was determined to experience the island. Arriving on a Saturday night, just 36 hours before he would be teaching the OSHA 500 - Trainer Course in Occupational Safety and Health Standards for the Construction Industry, he met up with Counts, who had arrived the week prior to teach the OSHA 510 - Occupational Safety and Health for the Construction Industry, a course that precedes the OSHA 500. She, too, was a veteran traveler, but was visiting Guam for the first time.

On Sunday, the day before their course was to begin, there was talk of bad weather ahead. But tropical storms in Guam are a regular occurrence, and no one seemed overly concerned. The sun was out and spirits were high. Schroeder and Counts set out to explore.

“Kim and I went driving around part of the island sightseeing with one of our hosts. And it’s beautiful. We actually got some pictures, drinking mango, sunny skies, and everything,” recounted Schroeder. “By the time we got back, they said the storm could be a light typhoon.”

What began as a routine tropical storm warning escalated quickly into what ended up as Super Typhoon Mawar, ranked as one of the top 10 strongest storms to occur globally since 2000. Schroeder and Counts found themselves caught in the midst of an impending natural disaster.

Through it all, Schroeder and Counts’ dedication to their OSHA training remained unwavering. While the storm had disrupted their plans, they were determined to see it through with their students to complete the course.

“They were troopers,” recalls Schroeder about the class participants. “They knew that if we left, it was going to be a long time before they could finish up and have this authorization.”

Kimberly Counts highlighted a silver lining in their situation, describing how the electrical outages forced their students to think outside the box about the required class presentations. Their adaptability underscored the importance of flexibility and resourcefulness in both teaching and learning.

“It was a good exercise,” noted Counts. “We’re so used to using our computers and technology. And, so it was nice, because we got to see some very good presentations where they didn’t use a PowerPoint at all.”

The story of these instructors’ journey to Guam during Super Typhoon Mawar is one of unwavering determination, camaraderie, and adaptability. Through the chaos and uncertainty, they discovered the strength of human connection and the importance of resilience and humor in the face of the unexpected.

“I kept telling everyone while I was there in Guam, ‘You know what? I’m getting older, and I’ve got this huge bucket list. But now I can take ‘typhoon’ off of it,’” laughed Schroeder.

Posted: 2/22/2024 8:00:00 AM with 0 comments

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