Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fairfax County CERTs and DELMARVA SAR Hit the Rubble Pile in CERTEX 2014

[Editor's note: Over the weekend, Fairfax County CERTs participated in CERTEX 2014, an urban search and rescue (SAR) training exercise for CERTs conducted by DELMARVA SAR. CERT Carlos Santiso, Class 73, shares his recap and photos. Plus, don't miss the CERT's-eye view video from CERT Nabil Gharbieh, Class 79, also included below.]
​​CERTEX 2014: An Urban Search and Rescue Exercise for CERT Members Conducted by DELMARVA SAR
The training description on the Fairfax County Volunteer Management System listing read:

"T​his highly sought after event is an advanced urban search and rescue exercise. The objective is to provide a positive and challenging environment for CERTs to sharpen and advance their skills.

It is a physically demanding training exercise for those who opt to challenge the rubble pile, involving the search, location, and extraction of victims trapped in the debris field.​"​

So we thought it would be an interesting way to spend a Sunday. We are well trained; we know what to do in cases like these. We have experience.​​

It was a very good decision. We met a very well-trained SAR team in charge of the event, who set up the scenario: We had to find many subjects (they don't call them victims) in the rubble pile. We didn't know how many, nor where they were.
CERTs work with DELMARVA SAR instructors on the rubble pile. All photos by Carlos Santiso.
Once we found subjects, we would then perform triage, which we learned is different than ours, and finish with the extrication of every found subject.

Some​ ​were​ less difficult than others... bu​​t​ ​none of them were easy.
CERTs work to get a subject out of a concrete tube.
Horizontal pipes... OK. But vertical pipes? Come on! We never did that at the Academy or in Lorton...
CERTs under the guidance of SAR instructors extricate a subject.

We performed​ that operation 3 times, switching roles, using our radios and their rescue equipment, and under their supervision and guidance.

Video by Nabil Gharbieh, Class 79.]

After the second iteration we had a much-needed break (as you can see below):

CERTs take a breather.

Then another killer: At around noon, we had litter carry training, where we transported a subject on a litter over, under, through, and around a K-9 agility course.

CERTs maneuver a subject on a litter through the rubble pile.

Lunch? A 15-minute break for a quick snack.

By now we were all looking at our watches, trying to find some shade or, better yet, a place to hide from DELMARVA SAR's Jim Jackson:

DELMARVA SAR'S Jim Jackson in a litter rig.

No luck. One more assignment, now using mixed search teams composed of individuals from both organizations. But, it didn't matter what,​ ​WE DID IT!

You may not find any pictures of the team after the last drill. We had no energy left to even shoot a picture...

We now understand why it said "This highly sought after event ...." The CERTEX exercise was one worth being part of.​ ​

We can also assert without any doubt that "it is a physically demanding training exercise."

We are all looking forward for the next iteration of this drill and we recommend everybody to register next year.

Thank you Fairfax County CERT for this opportunity and thank you DELMARVA SAR for the time dedicated to us and the camaraderie they showed us.

Fairfax County CERTs who participated in CERTEX 2014.

[See many more photos in Carlos's full CERTEX 2014 album on the Fairfax County CERT Facebook page.

For more upcoming training opportunities with Fairfax County CERT, visit and search for "CERT".]

Carlos Santiso is a Communications Coordinator for Fairfax County CERT and member of various CERT teams in the region. You can email him at

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