By Sue Botos
This was it – time for our final CERT drill.
After meeting bright and early for four Saturdays, now it was time to put to practical use everything we had learned about disaster preparedness, emergency medical, fire safety and light search and rescue.
I was set. I reread the material and had it down cold. I could name the colors of tape used to triage as well as the three killers, (blocked airway, bleeding shock). I knew just what to do to free someone pinned beneath an object. Above all, was safety for yourself and your buddy.
“We train for up here,” CERT coordinator Tricia Granfors said indicating a head-high level, “but most of the time you’ll be down here,” she added, holding her hand about knee level. Those of us gathered at the Westlake Service Center were issued our backpacks, hardhats and gloves and were assigned to three teams. Ready to roll.
My seven person team of Peggy and Bill Dague, Jim and Jane Kettren, Tina Ruda, Brianne Tompkins and yours truly, breezed through our first test – fire safety. We successfully used the buddy system to approach, extinguish and back away from burning material. High fives all around.
Fired up from our first test, we probably didn’t notice the dazed look on the faces of those returning from the search and rescue station. The gleam in the eye of instructor Tim Brown should have tipped us off, as he explained the disaster scenario upstairs in the offices of the service center. “But there will be a few surprises,” he promised opening the door to the stairs.
We were greeted by groans and calls of “help me” as we made our way up the stairs.
Rounding the corner and coming upon various “bloody” victims the well prepared responder I thought I was disappeared to be replaced by a deer in the headlights.
Fighting the urge to jump in and start randomly helping the first person we saw, my buddies, Brianne and Peggy and I ducked into a room where we tagged two teenage girls. (“Are you dead? I asked the first victim, who nodded ever so slightly). I extracted a little girl from under a pile of debris, shepherded her past her “injured” sisters and to the triage area where her mom awaited.
All good? Not so much. I lost my buddies and found myself besieged by the “walking wounded”, a woman fretting over finding a baby, and a mentally challenged man looking for his “meds”.
But wait! There was a closed door with someone banging around on the other side. Reuniting with my buddies, we burst through the door like Wonder Women, finding the “victim”.
“Sweep the room from the right,” called out Peggy.
Instructor Brown had slipped in behind us. “Take a look down there,” he suggested pointing to a wire snaking along the floor.
Not good. We probably could have been zapped. That’s what my buddies get for sticking with me.
We also let the door close behind us, another major no-no, and got locked in. Our radio was no help as everyone was talking all at once.
Our banging on the door was answered, and we tumbled out as our “victims” made miraculous recoveries. We applauded their stellar performances, and were told that we too could sign up to be on the victim side of various disaster drills. Jane got a shout out from the victims for her gentle touch. We didn’t do too badly really, we even found the baby.
We moved on to our “leveraging and cribbing” exercise where we had to remove a victim (this one was a mannequin) from under a pile of debris. We treated her various injuries with splints, taking extra care because she was pregnant. Since we were the last group here, once we got the “victim” rolled onto a stretcher, we also lugged her up the stairs, where we unceremoniously plopped her into the storeroom.
Most of us signed on to join the CERT team. Even those who chose not to received information that could maybe save a life and I highly recommend it. You can bet I’m going to look out for wires more carefully in the future.