Thursday, June 4, 2015

Class Highlights: CERT 95 - Vienna

Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Class 95 took place at a location out in the community -- the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department. This was not unusual -- in fact, it's pretty standard: If you can provide a minimum of 12 students and a location to train, we'll send CERT trainers out to you, for free.

What was unusual (and in fact, may be a first for us) was having a community class perform its final graduation exercise at the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Academy. And that's precisely what happened on April 30, 2015, when the students of CERT Class 95 came to the Fire Academy for their final exercise.

Before they could get started with the scenario, though, they needed to get through two practical skills tests. The first was fire suppression -- using fire extinguishers to put out a small, instructor-controlled fire:


CERT fire suppression teams work in teams of two. All photos: Joe Loong

The second skills test was lifting and cribbing -- using teamwork and simple machines like wooden blocks, levers, and wedges to raise and support a load (think moving an obstacle, or freeing a survivor trapped underneath).

CERT students discuss their plan of attack before trying to move the load.

CERTs work the levers on command.

With the skills tests completed, the CERTs went on to their final exercise, which took place at the garden apartment, inside the Academy's High Bay.

Responding to a simulated severe weather incident, the CERTs used the skills and knowledge they'd gained over the previous 25 hours of training to set up their Command Post, organize themselves, and go to work to survey the scene and search for survivors.


CERT rescue teams check in at the Command Post.
Here, the CERTs had to deal with new uncertainties -- not only were they in an unfamiliar location, but this was their first time dealing with the challenge of live human victim actors, done up in realistic wound makeup (known as moulage).

At first, some of the CERTs were hesitant. Working with live strangers is different from treating classmates or rescue dummies, and light years away from dealing with plywood gingerbread cutouts. But as they focused on the problem, they drew on their training and set about triaging, treating, tagging, and transporting simulated survivors:

A CERT Rescue team transports a survivor to Medical.
The purpose of CERT is to train people to safely help themselves and their communities until first responders can arrive. In a major disaster, help might not arrive for hours (or even days), so CERTs must be prepared to give continuing care to the survivors that they rescue.

Medical CERTs assess and care for Yellow and Red-tagged survivors at Medical.
At the conclusion of the exercise, CERT students and instructors gathered to debrief and share lessons learned.

Congratulations to the CERTs of Fairfax County CERT Class 95!
Congratulations to all the new CERTs of Class 95! We hope you'll stay involved with the program by taking advantage of our many advanced training classes; participating as a responder or victim actor in an exercise; talking up CERT to your neighbors and friends; or coming to the monthly CERT program meetings (usually at the Fairfax County Government Center, every third Tuesday from 7-9:30pm).

Want to get CERT training at your place? If you're part of a homeowner's association, workplace, or other community group, can get a minimum of 12 people to commit to CERT training, and can provide a training space (community center, clubhouse, meeting room, etc.), CERT instructors will come to you! Email James Sobecke at training@fairfaxcountycert.org for more info.


Joe Loong, volunteer Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT, is an editorial content and community engagement consultant. You can email him at blog@fairfaxcountycert.org

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