By Kyli Rhoads, 2nd Year Student.
It’s freezing outside, but our group huddles together in the cold to develop a plan for what is about to ensue. We hear thumping and yelling coming from inside the building, indicating that several people inside are hurt and in need of help. We delegate tasks and begin to arrange a medical station for the victims that we’re able to extract from the damaged building. Upon entering the dark and disheveled room, our team breaks into two groups to do the most help for the greatest number of people. Our task is to identify victims of this disaster that we can safely get out of harm’s way, and triage the others by tying color-coded bands to their limbs. The bands will make emergency crews aware as soon as they arrive who is in need of immediate assistance.
As soon as we enter, we find a child covered in blood, screaming for us to help his grandmother who is trapped under a large shelf. Another gentleman approaches us, shaken and sore, but otherwise in good shape. We send him outside to the medical station. We come upon another gentleman, unresponsive and lying on his side, impaled through the stomach with a long piece of wood. We continually check in with our team leader, who stands across the room, taking tally of the number and type of victims we find. We finish our sweep of the room and head back outside as a team to regroup and compile a list of supplies we need to take back in.
This is our final day of the FEMA Community Emergency Response Team training. This training was the final requirement for Master of Environmental Studies students to receive credit in the Natural Disaster Management elective for Fall 2013. After three days of training, and learning the various aspects of different types of natural and man-made disasters, we were then tested in a hands-on disaster simulation. This simulation was complete with volunteer “victims” enacting various types of minor and major injuries and smeared in fake blood, while our teams swept through the wreckage. We were able to put into action our various CERT skills throughout the simulations, including effective team-work and communication.
Other aspects of the training included extinguishing small fires, assessing building damage, basic wound care, triaging victims, disaster psychology, and safely transporting injured victims. Upon completion of the training, each student was awarded a certificate and a CERT pack of materials. In the case of a natural disaster or emergency in our communities, students that completed this training are now better equipped to be a helpful resource to their communities. This training took place during our final week of classes, so many students were sleep deprived and preoccupied with due dates and class assignments nagging at their focus. Although the final day was only a simulation, and the “victims” were just acting, I think the sleep deprivation and stresses of our final week of Fall quarter only helped strengthen the realness of the situation. Sleep deprivation and stress come hand-in-hand with disaster work.
At the end of the simulation our instructors assessed our work as a team and identified strengths and weaknesses. I was very grateful for this opportunity and was taught many things that will be invaluable in helping my community should the need arise. We live in a beautiful area, but with the beauty of the Pacific Northwest come natural hazards like earthquakes, landslides, winter storms and flooding. I would recommend this training to everyone, because being aware and prepared greatly increases your ability to react and respond to an emergency.