“Disasters by the Bay” Training Exercise on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at CSUMB
Comments by Rebecca Braslau and LizAnne Jensen:
Disasters by the Bay was a well-organized skills-building exercise spearheaded by the Sacramento CERT organization. Four of our Bonny Doon CERT members participated: LizAnne Jensen, Ken Jensen, Deb Smith and Rebecca Braslau.
The Bonny Doon members were assigned to different teams of 6-7 people, where we took part in simulated search and triage in a large building arranged to simulate a 7.1 earthquake scenario. Prior to entering the building, we had a briefing outlining our mission, tactics, potential hazards and safety concerns. We also checked and tested our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before embarking on our Search and Rescue operation. Our PPE included goggles, dust masks, gloves, long sleeved pants and shirts, helmets, and borrowed knee pads: and during the course of the exercise, we were glad we had the knee pads. We got good and dirty in the process.
There were a number of practice victims (live, and dummies) hidden in the building, which was dimly light, filled with simulated smoke, and turned into a maze. We learned to use search ropes to mark our path back out, and climbed, slid, and crawled around obstacles, while keeping together with our teammates and in radio contact with the Incident Command outside. We learned to test for live wires in our path with a hand-held test light, break through walls to search the area for victims, triage these victims, and conduct our search under the guidance of several safety personnel.
After all the teams finished conducting their Search and Rescue exercises, we did a “Hot Wash”: an immediate “after-action” discussion and evaluation of our performance. We reviewed what went right, what went wrong and what we could do better in the future. The process was professional, very informative and a fairly realistic. It was both fun, and sobering to learn how much more training and organized we might become to better handle future emergencies. We highly recommend that as many Santa Cruz CERT team members attend Disaster by the Bay events in the future.
Comments by Deb Smith:
What I liked most about the Disasters by the Bay exercise was seeing the ICS Incident Command System acted out. Also, playing/crawling around in a deteriorating Fort Ord building was great.
At first I was a bit timid to get in a physical exercise with a group I viewed as: fairly well trained, urbanized, and aggressive CERT teams. But after we were counted off in to deployable teams, and organized among ourselves I realized these people are the same as us. They may look impressive with their clean black cargo pants, shinning steel top boots, and matching CERT team shirts, but they just turned out to be another group with strengths and weaknesses similar to ours. For example: some didn’t communicate well within the team or listen to leader commands.
During my CERT basic training, including a couple Disasters in Paradise exercises, I have noticed listening to the team leader, communicating, and being a cohesive team needs improvement. Some individuals seem to want to “bulldoze” through every activity. I know some of this has to do with the organizers trying to get every team through the activity in a certain amount of time. But much is indicative to a lack of cohesiveness within the team. I can’t stress enough how important it is to slow down, stay with your team, communicate, and listen to your leader; you don’t move without your leader saying so, and if you are first to say what you are seeing, and this needs to be repeated back down the line.
I think a good exercise practice would take place in a very dark and cluttered room, and only second person in and the team leader have radios: everybody else in-between would just be another set of eyes. If a victim is found, ALL of the team stops: two attend to victim, two continue to scan/size up immediate area (while staying in the close vicinity to the rest of the team and victim). The leader would listen to what the victim stats are, and communicates this to the IC. The team does not resume searching until the entire team is ready to move. A good training tool might be restricting the number of headlamps to enforce team cohesion. First in would have a headlamp, and would call out what she/he is seeing, this person’s “buddy” would have a radio but no headlamp. Doing this would makes people rely on their buddy and communicate effectively, rather than the undisciplined pulse forward experienced in most practice searches I’ve experienced.