The Big Lake community has formed a new Community Emergency Response Team thanks to funding provided from a grant applied for by city police officers, Sam Olson and Cindy Finch. This group is separate from the Sherburne County CERT group that Dave and I belong to.
Stearns County Emergency Management Planner, Erin Hausauer taught the 20-hour course over a period of eight sessions. For more information on the CERT program is, see my CERT Training Week 1 post from January.
We were asked to attend Wednesday’s final session on July 27, 2011 and act as victims in the aftermath of their simulated tornado emergency. The fire station training room was transformed into a disaster area with overturned chairs and tables, pieces of wood and debris, and victims, including one “dead body.” Extension cords were draped throughout the room to represent fallen electrical wires. Once the victims were in place, rescuers were given the scenario details, divided into groups and began implementing their training by searching for victims and removing them from danger. Once the victims were located, they were taken outside to a triage area and checked for any medical needs. Team members had to identify conditions and perform emergency first aid as necessary.
Victims included a pregnant woman, an unconscious man, and people with various wounds, a broken leg, and a sprained ankle. Some were just plain confused, like me. No, seriously – my role was to breathe 25 respirations per minute, be confused, and be able to follow instructions. I was also invited to take photographs of the event by my CERT leader, but the dedicated Big Lake disaster relief team kept trying to get me to sit down for observation. One of the things we are taught to do in an emergency is to have the walking wounded victims help out, so I told them that I was asked to record the disaster for posterity. Dave played a man with a serious deep cut in his arm. He also lost his wallet in the debris and kept trying to go back and get it.
One of the funniest comments I heard was a member who was examining the pregnant woman after she “fainted.” The member checked for pulse and respirations and said, “I’m beginning to think this pregnancy is not real.” The deadpan way she said that just made me laugh!
After the simulation, CERT members gathered together for a debriefing session. Leaders asked about items that were lost including a couple of CERT bags and a set of keys. From the back of the room, Dave called out and said that he was still missing his wallet – such a crack-up! Overall, the team did a great job finding and rescuing drill victims. The group discussed things that went well and areas that need improvement such as making a plan before initially starting out and communicating more effectively. Unfortunately, there were a few mishaps. Within the first two minutes of the exercise, CERT team members walked in to the disaster area and were “electrocuted” by an hanging electrical wire. They were pronounced dead, but after a time out they were allowed back in to participate.
Observing Big Lake’s exercise from the vantage point of a victim/photographer gave me a good opportunity to review the things we covered in our classes earlier this year. As Sam Olsen pointed out, the reason we continually practice our skills is to get better each time and identify weak spots in our methodology. Working together as a team is very important as well and the way we learn to do that is by taking as many opportunities to do so as possible.
Sam Olson and Cindy Finch, Big Lake Mayor Lori Kampa, Police Chief Sean Rifenberick, Fire Chief Randy Miller and EMT Chief Gordon Vosberg all participated in handing out certificates and pins to the seventeen graduates.
They also each received a phone tree list and very nice laminated maps of the Big Lake and Big Lake Township to help them locate the areas they may be called to serve one day. Three more people will be part of the graduating class as soon as they complete their remaining requirements.
Here is the first Graduating Class of 2011:
Chief Rifenberick served cake to the graduates.
Big Lake CERT members will participate in ongoing training, including a CPR class at some point. There will also be joint training sessions with both Big Lake and Sherburne County CERT groups. Even though I am a member of the Sherburne County CERT group, I also live in the outer fringes of Big Lake, so I’m glad that I had the chance to meet some wonderful people and I look forward to training (and hopefully not working) with them.
The group picture includes:
Police Officers Sam Olson and Cindy Finch, and Erin Hausauer, CERT Instructor from Stearns County.
The graduates are (in alphabetical order) Aaron Aanerud, Susan Bauer, Justin Boie, Julie Davis, Marie Ebert, Nikki Gruber, Tricia Hedstrom, John Krohn, Mark Lindula, Pamela Lindula, Theresa Littmann, Brian Olene, Betsy Roberts, Daniel Robertson, Alex Shinnick, Janae Stern, Joan Schneider, Ned Schneider, Justin Thooft and Rebecca Vaughn.
I will update this post when I learn what name belongs to which person!
For additional photos, see the second Big Lake CERT post.