Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 13, 2013

Whatcom CERT Volunteers Prepare for the Worst

It was dark, and the screams of victims trapped by rubble echoed in the warehouse. Somewhere, nearby, I could hear my wife screaming for help as I sat, wedged between a fallen exercise machine and a shelf of paint, with fake blood dripping down my neck and shoulder. I could see dim flashlights bouncing off the ceiling as three volunteers in green jackets entered the area where we were trapped. “Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay,” said a middle aged woman as she applied a bandage to my fake wound. “We are going to get you to a safe place.”

CERT Volunteers try to free a victim from some rubble

CERT Volunteers try to free a victim from some rubble

CERT or Community Emergency Response Team, was first implemented by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985 as a way to provide training to civilians in case there was an emergency and first responders were unable to swiftly respond. “We would be the first first responders,” said Mariah, a volunteer with the Whatcom CERT program.

Envision an earthquake or just look at the pictures coming out of the Philippines, emergency services can’t always swiftly make it to where people need help so the CERT provides the training so civilians can step in and help.

CERT training itself is a mix of survival skills, first aid and search and rescue. Bob Jacobson teaches the classes of 12-20 people every couple of months at Bellingham Technical College. The final for the class puts volunteers to the test in a simulated disaster situation, something I was more than thrilled to be participating in.

Volunteer Bryon Powell demonstrates how to purify water

CERT Graduate Bryon Powell demonstrates how to purify water

Our jobs as disaster victims were very simple: We were given a fake injury (with some pretty convincing makeup) and then we were supposed to play the part of seriously injured people as we were found, identified, moved to a safe location and triaged. The CERT class did a great job on all accounts.

For the better part of two hours, we screamed and thrashed around as they tried to keep us calm and safe in an efficient manner. They used blankets to carry immobile victims, kept close count of the injured and did basic first aid to keep the worst of us from dying of our injuries.

You never know when a major disaster will hit and the skills provided by CERT could very simply save lives. You can sign up for the next round of classes at the Bellingham Technical College website or the Whatcom Cert website here.


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