By Mary O’KEEFE
Crescenta Valley CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) conducted a training drill at Monte Vista Elementary School on Saturday.
The scenario: the Newport-Inglewood Fault ruptured with a 7.6 earthquake at 8:30 on a Monday morning while team members are at work. Team members are able to get home and, after checking on their houses, neighbors and family, smoke is seen coming from the vicinity of a nearby elementary school. The school has a disaster plan and search teams are searching the school, but too many kids are unaccounted for. After meeting with fellow CERT team members and checking in with the principal, what is the next thing to do?
CERT trains community members to be ready to respond to situations like this, to help neighbors in case of any type of emergency from fire to earthquake to wind event.
According to Paul Dutton, CERT head coordinator, training on a school campus was an unusual opportunity. Permission was granted after Paul worked last year with Dr. Richard Sheehan, GUSD superintendent, on how to assist the district with its emergency response. He has also worked with local principals in refining their emergency plans.
Saturday’s drill included members of the Crescenta Valley High School 589 robotics team who volunteered as victims. They were “bloodied” and “scarred” by makeup artist and CERT member Jennifer Dutton.
After the injured were properly disfigured, they were scattered throughout the school. The CERT members conducted an organized search of the classrooms, listening for anyone who might be crying out. Once the members reached the injured, they conducted a quick assessment to determine injury severity and then transported the victims to a specific triage area. The victims were then assessed again and treated.
Two CERT team rotations were held on the campus. The first conducted search and triage and the other took care of rescue, treatment and first aid. Then they switched, giving all participants the chance to work various scenarios. Each rotation had 55 minutes for teams to go in, find the nine injured students, triage them and transport and treat them.
Paul said that the sheer size of the training site was unusual.
“We’ve never had a drill of this size,” Paul said. “Usually we are using one room.”
He added that the scenario included a simulated fire, and CERT members had to backboard victims to the triage area.
“It provided real life experience,” he said.
Coordinating, organizing and executing the scenes were the most challenging aspects of the exercise. Paul said that despite the size of the training area, the second team completed the exercise in an “amazing” 39 minutes.
“Imagine the logistics of having to deal with a real life disaster scenario in a school of this size,” Dutton said. “This is an example of how invaluable a CERT team can be in this type of emergency.” Monte Vista has over 40 classrooms and typically there are over 660 students on a school day.
The Crescenta Valley has six elementary schools, all averaging over 500 students, in addition to one middle school and two high schools. CVHS itself has over 2,800 students.
“It was a fantastic training for us,” he said.
With Paul, Saturday’s training was under the watchful eyes of fellow CERT head coordinator, certified LASD CERT trainer and program manager Lisa Dutton – also Paul’s wife.
“I’m real proud of our team members,” Paul said. “They adapted well and quickly. I’m pretty confident after seeing them in action. They got the job done.”
The next CERT classes are planned for October. To sign up, call Paul or Lisa Dutton at (818) 249-8378.