Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Eight CERTs TERRORIZE the US Army! and live to tell about it....

Hi folks!
Last night myself and other Fairfax County CERT team members participated in a disaster drill staged by the US army's 911th engineer company (technical rescue) at Fort Belvoir. It was an EXCITING drill, folks. An exciting drill and exciting from the turnout by the CERT's. Here's our "victim" list from last night:

Jack Ledgerwood of CERT 4?
Susy Ledgerwood of CERT 4?
John Bauer of CERT 21?
Jon Curl of CERT 28
Dirce Peri of CERT 15
myself- CERT 14
my wife Sharon-not a CERT but good at playing victim! (she has to be, she's married to me :)
and Judy and Ray Howell of our current class CERT 29. Thanks for coming out!

We met at the Fort Belvoir visitor pass and ID center, I called Lt. Branson (our contact) and he met us there. when he got out of his truck it was clear he was surprised by the number of us that showed up. Surprised and VERY happy. He escorted us in our vehicles on post like we were VIP's , we didn't need passes, we showed our licenses and just drove right on.
A short time later we ended up at the 911th's training facility. It reminded me of the fire academy where we train as CERT's, but with a few differences. They have the "rat maze", a building much like our multi purpose building except most of it is underground. Their area is hilly; and criscrossed extensively with underground culverts for extrication training. Oh, they also had a helicopter fuselage and an armored Suburban that they use to train with. All in all, this 40 man company has an impressive array of equipment as well. Arlington county fire dept. provided firemen and equipment for this part of the exercise.
Lt. Branson gave us a tour of the facility, we waited for a while and then got ready for the first part of the exercise. The first part involved a bomb going off in a manufacturing plant and a chlorine spill ensued. Ray Howell and I were the "wet folks"; so Ray buried himself under pallets and I covered myself in lightstick juice and crawled under the HUMVEE in the "plant" ( the company's motor pool building). When you cut open a light stick after shaking it up first, you pour it on something and it lights right up. When I was finished I was emitting so much green light I could have read a newspaper while under the HUMVEE. Judy, Susy,Sharon and Dirce were family members outside the building, Jack was "looking for his wife" and Jon was the "plant manager". John Bauer was a "reporter on the scene" trying to get details of the incident.
The exercise started and I start hearing Jack screaming "Where's my wife"? From this point I'll just describe what I saw; and I'll encourage the other CERT's to relate their experiences. There was so much going on!
I could see Jack (through a small opening in the closed up building) running back and forth in the firemen's faces screaming. He kept the firemen tied up for a good 10 minutes before they finally got into the building where we were. Dry ice had been set out all over the building; and probably two cases of lightsticks had been splattered all over the walls (and us). The inside of this building looked like a really bad hazmat situation ( or a really COOL night club). The firemen came in, did a quick on site triage, got Ray into a portable stretcher that looked like a child's sled and dragged him out. They came back in and grabbed me. They drag me out from under the HUMVEE and pick me up in a two man carry. (Folks, I weigh right at 200 pounds.)These two firemen carry me a good 400 feet to the decontamination station. With two firemen still carrying me we get soaked down with fire hoses. Once this is done, they laid me in the triage area and checked my carotid pulse.(the medics were from Walter Reed army medical center, and that's all they checked on me. Our head to toe assessment is 100 times better than this). They laid me on the ground; I look around and see Susy with an O2 mask on; my wife is dripping wet (they decontaminated her by mistake,oops!) and Jack dancing around asking where his wife is.....I remember Jack putting a bag under my feet (which he'd thoughtfully "liberated" from the ambulance) and I started getting COLD. A blanket was thrown over me; but I was still shivering. Derek mentions the danger of putting a victim directly on the ground; the potential for hypothermia is always present. Well, I started shivering uncontrollably. they put me on a stretcher and put me in the ambulance, where I found Dirce. She was also cold, apparently a fireman tossed her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried her away. Jon Curl poked his head in the ambulance; said that Judy was tormenting the fire chief so badly she was tied up with tape and her shoes were taken away! (Judy, you have GOT to get on the blog and tell us what happened!)
At this point the exercise was over and we were thanked profusely for our participation. The Army took pictures and will send pics once the exercise was over (this exercise runs until 6pm Wednesday). We were invited to come back on post and watch if we wanted to .
Thanks to all of the CERT's that participated; I hope everyone had as much fun as I did! I encourage each of the participants to "hop on the blog" and relate their experiences. I saw some of all the mayhem that went on but I'm sure each of you have a great story to tell from this drill.

Volunteer PIO


  1. I had great fun!! And I have the bruises to prove it!! with Jack and Jon's encouragement I "harrassed" the poor Deputy Chief so bad he hog tied me up with surgical tape and threw my shoes across the parking lot. Every firefighter that got near me I was screaming " wheres my husband, What happened",etc. I must have been running around and harrassing this poor deputy chief for an hour. Ray was playing his part so well that the Combat Medics were concerned he wasn't acting. We stayed in character until they finally told us that the exercise was over.I learned alot. I when out and bought some long zip ties for "people like me".

  2. Sounds like everyone had a fun time.

    Keep in mind that when we play victims we need to avoid those "bruises", "cut up backs", etc. It goes without saying, safety first. We sometimes need a reminder.

    Yesterday, I was speaking with some people at the National Homeland Defense Conference and was talking about some of the military exercises we have participated in. I commented how real they seemed at times and from time to time you can hear someone saying (repeatedly) "stop this is not a drill." I was reminded that it is their nature to exercise as if it were the real thing.

  3. Judy,
    So that's what happened! aaahh...Jon ("the plant manager")actually has a cellphone video of you laying hogtied on the pavement screaming at the firemen. He's also got a short video of Jack running around flopping his arms in front of the first responders; he looked like he was getting ready to take off and fly!
    I am VERY sorry you got a bit bruised; Andrew had bruises from the last Army disaster drill and I had scrapes across my back and my "backside" (got those being drug across 150 feet of pavement by a rope). It is altogether too easy to "get into" the exercises and drills.
    Andrew, I totally agree with you; as Derek mentions, the most important person in CERT is "me". Safety is paramount. If we as CERT's get hurt then we won't be able to help our neighbors. That's why the use of PPE,proper gear, the buddy system. checking to make sure there's 6 sides to EVERY box, double gloving, etc. is so important. It takes only a second or two to get hurt, but a long time to recover.
    The best thing about playing a victim is that you learn to be a better responder to an incident. Jack Ledgerwood told me this after finishing my CERT class (CERT 14). He was right; I try to take every oppurtunity to be a victim; because I know my neighbors will be needing help after a major disaster and I want to be as helpful as possible.
    Besides, I got to glow in the dark after this exercise and learned about hypothermia first hand. My shivers during that exercise were real....Derek is absolutely correct about that. Lay a person on the concrete and the ground will "wick" the heat right out of your body. So, tonight when your'e doing triage remember to place your victims on something; rather than laying them directly on the ground.

    CERT 14
    volunteer PIO

  4. Terry, I have a tip for you, when you say that Derek is absolutely correct. Believe him. No need to test it out at an exercise.

    It is less painful that way. :-)

    Now about being hogtied, I am glad I was not there for that part.

    After what we saw at the other Ft. Belvoir exercise, there is no question I would have been taken care of.

  5. Andrew,
    If you had used your victim antics from the force protection exercise on this exercise; I am certain you would be duct taped,gagged and still hanging from the flagpole in front of the motor pool. Arlington county had some AWFULLY big firefighters; they looked like WWE wrestlers in Scott packs and bunker gear........If they can lift me at over 200 pounds and tote me 400 feet to the decon station without breathing hard; well, yeah, BIG firefighters.
    As far as the scrapes; well, all I can say is experience is my best teacher.(That and being hardheaded)
    Like ancient Roman soldiers that trained with 60 pound spears; but carried 20 pound spears into battle. I'd rather take a scrape during training and learn from the mistake than take a real injury in a real life disaster situation and have it stop me dead in my tracks.
    volunteer PIO

  6. Terry,

    You are absolutely correct, as I learned from my experience with the Alexandria Exercise. :-)

    As we have learned, in some places, "Stop this is not a drill", does not work.


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