By Talon Boeve
Alaska Shield 2016 was a statewide, multi-day drill designed to test Alaska’s emergency resources and preparedness.
On Saturday April 2nd, I and six other members of Willow CERT participated in a mock Tourist train and School bus collision as part of Alaska Shield.
At 10 am, all of us volunteer victims boarded a bus in the Mat-Su Regional Hospital parking lot for the ride to the Fair Grounds. Once there we met the moulage team who outfitted participants with fantastic make-up wounds before a quick lunch was served by the Red Cross. By a little after 1:30pm everyone was in place and the drill began. Emergency personnel arrived on scene and began their assessment and in just over 30 minutes they had triaged all the minor wounded and uninjured victims. I was assigned the role of someone uninjured but very anxious about the whereabouts of a loved one. This role made it easy to view many parts of the emergency response including the Incident Command Post, and the staging and triage areas as I “searched” for my sister.
Then we were put on the bus which was supposed to take us to an alternate care location that had been set up for the event. However, there was a delay and, unfortunately, we ended up having to skip the treatment site and instead went to a Red Cross run reunification center were the staff practiced contacting family and friends of the living and “deceased” victims. Our final destination was the hospital for sandwiches and a debriefing with the event organizers and the emergency personnel.
Participating as a victim was a wonderful learning experience. We got to see great examples of the triage and incident management techniques from our CERT training performed by the emergency responders. Viewing the techniques from the other side of a disaster scenario allowed us to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses on a broader level than if we had been performing them ourselves. It was the perfect time for us to consider what sort of role a CERT would have played in a similar situation.
Some of the crucial tasks that trained CERT’s could have performed at the exercise (or its real world counterpart) are, First, triage and first aid. If CERT’s were present we would be able to assess victims and treat minor wounds saving Emergency Personnel valuable time and resources. Second, we could have helped to control and direct uninjured victims (I saw first-hand how an anxious person on a scene could easily take a responder’s time away from the seriously wounded.) Third, if a disaster occurred at a railroad crossing, directing traffic and maintaining control of any bystanders would be essential to managing risk at the crash site. This is just an overview of how CERT could have been utilized immediately following the collision. The on scene experience and records that CERT members might have would also have be an asset to the Red Cross and law enforcement as they began notifying and reuniting families.
The Alaska Shield event was a very fun and instructive way to build upon my CERT training and I can’t wait to participate in my next disaster drill! A video of the exercise can be found here.