Saturday, November 1, 2014

George Mason District Boy Scouts Respond to "Hurricane George"

[Editor's Note: Some people might consider an overnight campout with over 100 Boy Scouts to be, by definition, an exercise in disaster response and emergency management. Rolf Madole, Fairfax County CERT Operations Lead and prime mover behind the George Mason District 2014 Fall Camporee, recaps the event. Turns out that the Camporee wasn't just a great training exercise for the Scouts, but it also gave CERTs useful experience working with enthusiastic -- though untrained -- volunteers. (This account is adapted from an article Rolf wrote for the Fire & Rescue Department's 'Front Lines' newsletter.)]

“Hurricane George”: The George Mason District 2014 Fall Camporee

Friday, October 11, Hurricane George makes landfall and hits an area in Fairfax County surrounding the Fire and Rescue Academy. Boy Scout troops from George Mason District and surrounding districts are mobilized; they grab their "go bags" and report for duty to train and respond to the disaster.

George Mason District Scouts gather at the Fire & Rescue Academy Saturday morning. Photo: Brian Talbot

That was the scenario for the George Mason District 2014 Boy Scout Fall Camporee. On the morning of Saturday, October 12, 102 local-area Boy Scouts, accompanied by 38 adult Scout leaders, checked in and divided into 13 teams. Each team received a safety briefing and was directed to report to one of several disaster skill stations.

Scouts get briefed on urban search and rescue in front of Burn Building 2. Photo: Allie Felder

At each station, Fairfax County Firefighters and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers provided guidance and instruction to the Scouts and challenged them in disaster response techniques such as search & rescue, fire suppression, victim extraction and movement, and medical care.

Scouts practice putting out small fires with a fire extinguisher. Photo: Allie Felder

Scouts were also given an opportunity to witness response drills and fire engine operations, as well as getting an orientation to the Fairfax’s County Police Department's Helicopter Division, including Fairfax 1, the Bell 429 helicopter.

A team of Scouts practice handling a fire hose under the instruction of a Fairfax County firefighter. Photo: Allie Felder

Once every team completed all the assignments, they reported to the academy High Bay to debrief and review what they had learned.

Scouts debrief in the High Bay of the Fire and Rescue Academy. Photo: Allie Felder

A Call to Action
However, the day wasn’t yet over for the Scouts. A “no-notice” exercise was kicked off requiring the Scouts to respond to a four-story building search and rescue scenario. Scout teams, under the leadership and direction of 13 CERT volunteers and supervised by Fairfax County firefighters, applied what they learned earlier that day.

Scouts use a flexible stretcher to transport a simulated victim. Photo: Allie Felder

Teams were required to check in with Accountability and assigned to stations for Search and Rescue, Medical, and Logistics, emphasizing objectives of search, fire suppression, victim extraction, victim triage, sorting, and transportation.

Scouts use a blanket carry to transport materials. Photo: Allie Felder

By the end of the two-hour exercise, Scouts were able to find and extricate 55 victims simulated by rescue mannequins, plywood "gingerbread" dummies, and traffic cones representing different victim condition categories. Of the 55 simulated victims, 44 were transported to a medical station for triage and sorting, 14 of whom were carried to two different hospital stations.

With the exercise complete, Scouts returned to the High Bay for a warm dinner prepared by the Order of the Arrow, and then to the traditional Boy Scout campfire for songs and skits. Finally, Scouts reported back to the High Bay where they bedded down for the night, chaperoned by adult Scout leaders and fire department personnel.

The overall objective was to promote disaster awareness among Scouts and provide them with the exercise requirement for the Scouting Emergency Preparedness merit badge, as well as to give all participants (Scouts and CERTs) a fun and instructive time. The objectives, we are happy to report, were all achieved.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Adjunct Instructor Brian Talbot, CERT Assistant Lead Anita Van der Merwe, George Mason District Camporee Chairman Allie Felder, CERT Lead Missy Tuttle-Ferrio, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Adjunct Instructor Mike Forgy. Photo: Missy Tuttle-Ferrio

If you represent a Scouting organization and are interested in learning more about how Fairfax County CERT put together the Camporee, please contact Rolf.

Rolf Madole, Operations Lead of Fairfax County CERT, is is a budget analyst contractor for the federal government. You can email him at 

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