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Disaster 101
by Stormy on March 31, 2007

Emergencies happen and often the people who are the first to respond are not the paid professionals, but the volunteers. Watching a live disaster simulation is a humbling experience. It's easy to understand why disasters tend to overwhelm people.

Today I got to see a live CERT graduation exercise by Arapahoe County. CERT is the Community Emergency Response Team and it consists of volunteers who donate their time to help others. Arapahoe County has a very strong CERT program with many volunteers graduating every year. Today's exercise was for the first class to graduate in 2007. There were about 40 students in the class and after having completed all the required training, they had to attend a mock disaster to put all their training to use while being supervised by their instructors. These instructors also allowed me to observe the action. The exercise took place at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds and scenario was that a tornado disrupted the festivities as it passed across the facility, causing damage and injuring the people who were assembled there. The CERT students were activated to manage the scene until professional responders could arrive. The volunteer victims were made-up with blood and gore. They had cuts and bruises and broken bones and burns. There was one amputation. The make-up was scarily realistic and in the dim twilight of one of the fairground buildings added to the mood of the setting. The CERT volunteers were at first overwhelmed by the amount of damage and carnage. They needed to develop a good strategy to manage the disaster scene. The facility was surveyed. The victims were methodically triaged and extracted from the damaged building. They were treated at the medical area as the exercise progressed. This was a first disaster experience for the CERT volunteers and while they did not do everything 100% correctly, they had a great first exercise and will join the ranks of existing CERT responders. I was happy to have gotten the opportunity to see a rescue in progress and am happy to see that my home county is doing everything that it can to be ready for any emergency.

Arapahoe County Fairgrounds water tower.
(taken by Max on March 31, 2007)
A circus was at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds, too. Did you know that elephants are terrified of marmots?
(taken by Jennifer on March 31, 2007)
The CERT class prepares for the exercise.
(taken by Jennifer on March 31, 2007)
The Incident Command area.
(taken by Jennifer on March 31, 2007)
The medical treatment area where the injured are first brought.
(taken by Jennifer on March 31, 2007)
The injured were processed as they were brought in. That's Calvin the Dog in the center. He's a Labradoodle.
(taken by Jennifer on March 31, 2007)

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