Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shadowing CERTs: Class 2, Disaster Management

[Editor's Note: I'm in training to become a CERT Volunteer Instructor, so I've been observing Fairfax County CERT's Fall classes at the Fire & Rescue Academy (Classes 85 and 86). I planned on posting class recaps every week, but since we're now in week six of seven and I've only posted once, I'm clearly behind schedule. I'm going to try to get caught up in time for the classes' Nov. 15 final graduation exercise.]

The first week of CERT training is largely about why CERT does what it does. In the second class, Disaster Management, the students of CERT Classes 85 and 86 really started getting into the how's: How CERTs organize and respond to a disaster.

Instructor Mike Forgy teaches the students of Class 86 the finer points of CERT organization. All photos: Joe Loong
During the opening lecture, instructors threw out a slew of acronyms, mnemonics, and rules of thumb to help CERTs orient themselves during a disaster response, including:
  • Use the CALMeR command structure: Command, Accountability, Logistics, Medical, Rescue
  • Rescuers should be SAFE: Survey scene; Affix tags; Fix life; Extricate victims
  • Determine priorities for rescue by focusing on "Worst hurt, easiest to get out."
CERTs also learned that a good set of orders has both geographic and functional components: "Team 2, I need you to go to Building 2, Floor 2 [a specific place] and conduct a search and report back [a specific action]."

Then, the CERT students were told to gear up and head outside for a round-robin of stations that demonstrated the functions of Command, Accountability, Logistics, Medical, and Rescue.

Lead Instructor Steve Willey receives a scene size-up report at the Command station.

For Command and Accountability, CERTs got an overview of the Command function. They were taught how to pick a safe site for their Command Post, and how to begin setting up the other departments and their leaders. They learned that the CERT organization is designed to keep a commander's span of control to no more 7 persons, with the optimum being 3-5. And they learned the importance of maintaining Accountability for all team members: Being able to know who is doing what at any given time.

Volunteer Instructor Jonathan Kiell shows Class 85 CERTs the materials gathered at a Logistics cache.
At the Logistics station, CERTs learned how to keep the response supplied with vital materials, ranging from materials for lifting, cribbing, and building stretchers for the Rescue teams, to tarps, water, bandages, and shelter for the Medical area. CERTs were encouraged to use their resourcefulness to obtain materials, but cautioned to stay within legal and ethical boundaries.

At the Medical station, CERT Jim McPheeters uses the contents of his CERT back to show students how to provision a Medical area.
CERTs learned how to set up and operate a Medical area using only the materials in their packs and items supplied by Logistics. A proper Medical area has safe, distinct areas for the treatment of each category of triaged patients, as well as access control and a check-in process so that incoming patients aren't lost in the chaos.

CERTs of Class 85 go through the burn building as they watch a CERT Rescue team perform a building search.
For the Rescue station, CERTs were led through the burn building in a sample floor search, where students learned the importance of the buddy system and maintaining situational awareness. They also learned how to do a proper interior search -- keeping the same hand on a wall and following it around until you get back to the entrance, while keeping track of potential hazards, victims, entrances, and exits.

In CERT training, each class builds on what the students learned the previous classes, and lays the groundwork for the next. In the second class, CERTs began to learn how to function while wearing their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and got a view of what a disaster response looks like. Their training will get much more hands-on in the following weeks.

Joe Loong, volunteer Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT, is an editorial content and community engagement consultant. You can email him at blog@fairfaxcountycert.org

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