Saturday, November 03, 2007

In a disaster, there's no substitute for being able to think on your feet

After six weeks* of instruction on how to help in a disaster, I and my CERT team members would get to test our skills in a simulated disaster.

Last Thursday night, we met at the Healdsburg Fire Department, which had provided the training and was now the scene of the disaster scenarios intended to replicate what would happen if we were to have an earthquake (Healdsburg sits right on top of the Rodgers Creek Fault).

I had attended every session, did my homework each week, and spent last weekend organizing my rescue pack so I could find everything I needed quickly. I numbered every pocket in the pack and made an alphabetical list of what was in each pocket.

Using index cards, I reduced a binder full of instructions on what to do down at each stage of a disaster to a few key points and tucked them in my backpack.

And what were the results of all this preparation? I blew it in one of the three scenarios, triage, when I was asked to lead the rescue team. Without going into detail, I and another rescuer got “electrocuted” because I didn’t assess the safety before we entered a room full of screaming victims. I simply couldn’t think on my feet. It was a disaster.

As a team member in the other two scenarios, extinguishing a car on fire and conducting search and rescue, I did okay.

Here’s a two minute clip of the three scenarios: triage, fire suppression, and search and rescue.

Lessons learned:
1. I’m a better team player than a leader in a disaster.
2. I’m going to participate in simulated disasters that are put on in my area by the Red Cross. This may improve my ability to think on my feet in stressful situations.
3. I’m still better prepared to take care of myself and help others in my neighborhood for having taken the training. I earned my certificate and the embarrassment I felt for blowing it during the triage. I’ll keep the certificate but let go of the embarrassment!

* For more information on our training, check : here, here, here, here, here, and here. I included information that helps people prepare for a disaster and to encourage everyone to take the CERT training.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Gail,

I enjoyed the footage of the "disaster" night. Like you I felt a little out of water, and was just a helper rather than a leader that night.

I hope to get more confidence but I am still much better off that before the training. It was great. I hope more people in my neighborhood take it.


Pam E

Pam E.