Monday, October 27, 2014

Shadowing CERTs: Class 4, Disaster Medical Operations 2

[Previously, on Shadowing CERTs: After a major disaster, triaging and treating survivors in the field is only the first step. Victims need to be cared for at Medical until they can be evacuated for more comprehensive care. The students of Fairfax County CERT's Classes 85 and 86 learn what it takes to maintain the patients under their care.]

CERTs of Class 85 set up Command and Accountability as they prepare to search the High Bay. All photos: Joe Loong

Like last week, the second class in Disaster Medical Operations begins with a drill in the darkened High Bay. The CERTs are more familiar with the layout (including the multi-story "garden apartment"), but each drill is getting more complex, and the students are being evaluated on how well they remember, integrate, and apply the skills they've learned to date.

Faced once again with plywood dummies ("gingerbreads") and human victim actors, CERT rescuers must rapidly assess, triage, tag, and treat the victims, focusing on stopping the three killers they've been trained to deal with (obstructed airway, excessive bleeding, and shock).

CERT rescuers find Instructor Rich Hall, who plays a victim actor with a simulated arm injury.

Mixing human actors with gingerbreads gives CERTs an additional challenge. Students tend to prioritize human victim actors (especially ones who moan and cry out) over plywood ones, causing them to bypass their methodical searches and spend more time treating less-severe injuries.

CERTs gather bandaging supplies at a Logistics cache.

Instructors in this phase of the drill aren't just guiding students on what to do, but are advising them what not to do. During the initial search, the goal of rescuers is to spend no more than 30 seconds on each patient, which means stopping life threats, and saving non-life-threatening injuries (including nasty-looking wounds like compound fractures) for later care.

Instructor Rich Hall demonstrates how to perform a head-to-toe assessment.

After the drill, CERTs head back to the classroom to learn what that "later" care at Medical involves. CERTs learn that setting up a Medical area means more than just colored tarps and sunshades. In an actual disaster, they may need to care for survivors on-site for up to three days, so maintaining hygiene and sanitation becomes critical. CERTs learn several methods for purifying water, as well as how to use a 10:1 mixture of water and bleach to make disinfecting solution.

At Medical, CERTs must continue to monitor patients for life threats, as well as perform a head-to-toe assessment to check for other injuries. They learn how to treat injuries ranging from burns and fractures to hypothermia. CERTs learn the importance of regularly re-assessing patients for changes in status. And they practice skills like performing head-to-toe assessments, dressing wounds, and splinting limbs.

In their next class, CERTs will learn how to watch out for hazards of a different sort... including unseen ones that affect both victims and rescuers.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome insightful comments from the community that add value to the conversation. Spam, offensive, harassing, off-topic or inappropriate posts may be deleted.