By Kevin Kelley
No, it wasn’t a scene being filmed for “The Avengers,” but the bloodied victims emerging from Regal Cinemas at Crocker Park Saturday morning were indeed actors.
The numerous signs along the Union Street entrance to Crocker Park told the story: The apparent emergency was not real, just a drill for volunteer members of the Westshore Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT.
The fictional scenario involved a controversial film being shown at the movie theater. Protests, at first peaceful, eventually turn into a riot. Cinema fans, many injured, must be evacuated from the darkened movie theaters. The simulation was intended to test CERT’s command, communications, and search and rescue abilities.
In an actual incident such as this, police and paramedics would be the first to respond to such an emergency. CERT’s role is to provide support to first responders, especially if they become overwhelmed by an emergency. For training purposes, teams of CERT volunteers entered the darkened theaters to search for injured victims and help them out to receive medical attention.
Tricia Granfors, coordinator of the Westshore Regional CERT program, said the drill was the largest and most comprehensive exercise the organization has ever attempted. Granfors noted that, as CERT coordinator, a paid part-time position funded by the Westshore Council of Governments, she was the only CERT member paid to take part in Saturday’s exercise. The 80 other CERT participants were all volunteers, she noted, as were the 30 or so actors portraying riot victims.
“Overall I think this went tremendously well,” said Granfors, who also works as a secretary in North Olmsted’s Planning and Development Department.
Evaluations of Saturday’s exercise will be
used to develop training programs for next year, Granfors said.
CERT members did face some problems Saturday, which were discussed at a meeting immediately following the drill. Some search and rescue teams using radios were told to use the wrong frequency. Some teams did not immediately choose leaders at the start of their missions. A few working in the first aid area who should have been wearing latex gloves were not.
Rocky River resident John Silvis, Saturday’s CERT incident commander, said those sorts of issues are not unexpected. “Welcome to the real world,” he said, indicating that even experienced first responders sometimes face hurdles.
The real world did impede slightly into Saturday’s drill. First, an actor portraying a theater victim actually suffered a minor cut to her leg when sitting on a chair. The medical team quickly bandaged her up.
The drill scenario included the transfer of authority and control from CERT to the Westlake Fire Department. But just as control was transferred, the Westlake fire engine crew taking part in the drill received an actual call and had to depart.
Granfors said the Westshore CERT’s existence has importance for the general public in two ways. First, she said people should realize that disasters are possible and that residents should prepare by storing emergency supplies and developing individual or family emergency plans. Second, she hopes more area residents will sign up for CERT’s periodic training programs so they can be an extension of the community’s response to emergencies if and when needs outweigh resources.
(For more information about the Westshore CERT program, visit its website at http://www.westshorecert.org. For more information on how to prepare for emergencies, go to http://www.ready.gov.)