A class of Taft High School students, who train for an entire semester to learn life saving and rescue techniques, tried out their skills Friday at the Gleneden Beach fire station. The exercise, authored by regular Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members and fire department personnel from both Depoe Bay and North Lincoln Fire Departments, envisioned a strong earthquake with moderate to heavy building damage throughout the earthquake zone.
There were a number of fires that were started from leaking natural gas lines along with victims trapped inside buildings and under fallen walls, desks and cabinets.
The Teen CERT students immediately went into “first-things-first” mode as they prepared to enter a heavily damaged building with audible yelling from injured survivors inside. They first shut off the natural gas.
Then they put out a small fire. Then they entered the damaged area, assessed the severity of injuries to victims, and then transported them to a medical treatment area. One by one they were brought in on their own feet with the help of the teen CERT members, others sitting on lifted chairs, others in lifted blankets, some literally riding piggy-back pulled by a strong young rescuer.
The CERT teens learned how to label the extent of injuries and specify certain medical conditions since some of the victims were able to talk with their rescuers. Victims were sorted by the severity and nature of their injuries, placing them on different colored plastic mats designating victims’ general medical condition.
At the end of the drill they went over what went well and what they need to work on. What went well was that once everyone was working as a team, things went relatively smoothly. What they need to work on is the initial organizing so that everyone is working as a team, assigning different duties that must be carried out at the same time as well as decentralized duties when they’re seeking out the injured in the building.
Others thought that the patients were probably not evacuated as fast as they should have been but they all were transported to the medical treatment area within a ten to fifteen minute period. Others indicated that individual team leaders need to find their “command” voice, one that leaves no doubt an order is being given and that it should be carried out immediately.
Otherwise there was lots of praise for the Taft High Teen CERT team. They were praised for rising to the challenge of focusing on the emergency conditions that challenged them, staying focused on what was in front of them and that they were not shy about asking questions.
Taft High is currently the only high school in Lincoln County that has a Teen CERT Team. However, Schools Safety Coordinator Sue Graves said that starting in the Fall, Toledo High and Waldport High will both launch their own Teen CERT Team programs. Students will receive an entire semester of CERT training and will finish their course with an emergency exercise much like the one conducted today. Graves said Newport High is actively exploring a way to launch their own Teen CERT program. A great deal has to do with having a suitable teacher to lead it.
Graves says the northwest is earthquake, tsunami, flooding, and wind country, which means that all residents, right down to our kids, need to know what to do in the event of a disaster – how to take care of ourselves and those immediately around us. She said emergency preparedness should start early in school, and from there, keeping the skills they learn sharp and well practiced throughout life.