The location of this mock disaster was in a downstairs room adjacent to the gym at the Bartow County College and Career Academy. Paul Cuprowski, director of the Bartow County Emergency Management Agency, said, “This program educates people about disaster preparedness and trains them to use basic disaster response skills. Today we are practicing the skills learned in the classroom. This real-world scenario puts it to the test and gives them an idea of what a true disaster would be like.”
The disaster simulation mimicked the wreckage caused by a tornado that hit an industrial park during working hours with employees present. Sirens howled through the room as CERT responders entered in a single-file line. Immediately, they sought out victims and assessed their injuries. The light from their headlamps shown through the foggy room and landed on a young man with a plank protruding from his chest. Using nearby items, such as chairs and tables, the responders moved victims to the triage located in the gym. The wounded were labeled according to the level of severity of their injuries. Once in the triage area, their condition was reevaluated and they were prepared for an ambulance.
The CERT training program consists of 16 hours of classroom instruction and four hours of disaster simulation. In the past two months, 70 residents have completed the program, which was offered three times with varying schedules.
Shawna Maples, first-time CERT trainee, said, “I didn’t expect to feel that little feeling of chaos and doom when I walked into the scenario. It definitely made me realize I need to do more training so that if I am in the situation I will feel more comfortable. Without the training, I know I would have felt overwhelmed by the situation today.”
Maples plans to share her newly acquired knowledge with her neighbors.
“In my neighborhood I have a lot of geriatric neighbors that I know would need help. Most people are not prepared for a disaster with things like storing water and trimming trees around your house. This class has made me more aware of things like that.”
Twenty-four BCCCA students volunteered to be the wounded factory employees for the drill.
“Today we have mostly public safety students and two nursing students here to help. In our public safety program, we encourage our students to perform community service, which is logged in a portfolio they use later for employment. Today will count toward their hours. We want to teach them to be active, responsible members of their community,” Don Moody, public safety instructor at BCCCA, said.
Sam and Phyllis Maybern attended one of the three recent CERT training sessions. Phyllis said, “Sam is 72 years old and has Parkinson’s disease and I am 70. We took the class because we saw there was a place for us. We want to help if calamity comes; we want to be able to do something. This will also help us be more prepared in our home.”
Cuprowski plans for the next CERT training classes to be held in May. For more information visit bartowcountycert.org.