WillowCERT SAR Training

On Thursday June 22nd Willow CERT members participated in a practice search and rescue at the Willow community center. The team practiced radio communications, team structure and establishing an Incident Command. The practice involved searching for a 3 year old lost child. The team was successful in following the clues and finding the little girl who turned out to be a box with her face and name on it. Great job guys; we learned where our strengths and weaknesses are. Thanks to all who participated.


Slippery Slope for Willow CERT members!

When you think of ways to have fun, hanging out in an Alaskan gravel pit on a rainy Tuesday evening probably wouldn’t feature high on most people’s list, but three members of Willow CERT had a great time doing just that as part of a training session for local emergency services.


Kathy Watkins and Talon Boeve

Our Emergency Service personnel continuously refresh and update the skills that enable them to mount operations in some of the world’s most challenging conditions. The rugged terrain here means that steep-incline rescues are not uncommon but they can be difficult and hazardous and require hours of special training, first in the classroom and then in the field, where they put the theory into practice. For that, they need willing victims – and that’s where we came in.

First stop was moulage, where the borough’s emergency services training co-coordinator, Bill Mackreth daubed us with make-up that was definitely more Mad Max than Max Factor, to produce an array of gruesome and very convincing injuries. Kathy Watkins’ midriff was heavily bruised: the result of serious internal injuries. Talon Boeve had a splendid compound fracture protruding from a torn and bloodied trouser leg and I got off rather lightly with facial lacerations.image6

Then we took up our positions in the vehicles that had been placed in the gravel pit to simulate a two-car collision and a four-wheeler RV, which had all gone off the road and down a steep slope of around thirty feet.

Once the rescue vehicles arrived on scene, they first lowered a paramedic to triage the casualties and then set about slowly and carefully extracting the most urgent cases and securing them on stretchers. It was a difficult process made more arduous by the rain and the loose gravel that constantly gave way under foot .Our rescuers were clearly having to exert a great deal of physical effort to get the patients to the top, whilst still ensuring their own safety and that of their crew.


Margot Dunne, the author

I overheard one of the trainers repeating the golden rule of any rescue attempt – Remember – It’s not your emergency !

Afterwards, there was a very welcome cup of hot chocolate and a de-briefing , where the general feeling was that the exercise had been very successful and that everyone had learned a lot.

From the point of view of CERT, taking part in something like this has much to recommend it. Not only is it a good way to refresh your memory about personal and team safety, triage and first aid, it’s also a good way to see how we could usefully employ our time if we arrive on scene before the emergency services and how we could be of assistance once they do. Time spent around the emergency services, becoming more familiar with their procedures, jargon and equipment means we will be better equipped to deal with a real situation.image4

On the way home, we stopped in at a garage for refreshments, forgetting that we still had our moulage on and we had to reassure the cashier that we hadn’t really been hurt. I think Bill can take that as a compliment !

Reflections on the Su Valley Emergency Preparedness Fair

The recent Emergency Preparedness Fair was a success with 30 exhibitors inside and out.  It was nice that 68 children and so many families came.  All of the feedback from exhibitors and attendees was very positive.  The evaluations noted that the attendees learned a lot and would do more to prepare.  They also liked all the giveaways. The event competed with outstanding weather and big track meets and other events but still realized a strong showing.


We are collecting comments and would like to hear from you!  Perhaps these photos will help spark some thoughts.  Please send your comments or photos for posting to Bryan at KL4A@arrl.net.

Alaska Shield 2016 – A CERT Perspective

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.

CERT kat train wreck

CERT at The Willow Health Fair 2016

Every April, the Willow Health Organization (WHO) and Alaska Health Fair, Inc. sponsor a Health Fair in Willow. Over 100 people from our small community attend the Health Fair for low-cost blood tests as well as screening for vision, colon cancer, dental concerns and much more. Many agencies attending provide information to promote wellness and increase awareness of diseases, conditions, and  information about community resources to improve health.

Last year Willow CERT identified the need to provide more assistance to WHO during the annual health fair. On April 16th, eleven members of Willow CERT assisted with set up and take down, registration, answering questions and helping out wherever a need was identified. A R.N. CERT member assisted with blood pressure screening and answered questions about the lab tests offered.

Because Willow experienced a disastrous wildfire in June 2015, CERT wanted to promote fire safety. At the CERT booth, the team provided State of Alaska/DNR Burn Permits and explained the new requirements for burning. CERT provided information about making one’s property more safe from wildfire and how to prepare for emergencies.

CERT participation at the Willow Health Fair was a valuable contribution to the event as it provided an opportunity to disseminate vital information on Fire Safety and Emergency Preparedness to the community.

Willow Health Clinic


First wildfire call of the season

The original post appeared at https://www.facebook.com/AK.Forestry/posts/1057584974304793

The Alaska Division of Forestry got its first wildfire call of the season on Monday in the Mat-Su Valley when a fire in an unattended burn barrel with an inadequate fire break escaped into the wildland. The fire, at a home on Thunder Cloud Drive off Pittman Road, caught a nearby shed on fire, causing substantial damage and destroying all the homeowner’s tools. Fortunately, firefighters from the Central Mat-Su Fire Department and Meadow Lakes Fire Department responded in time to prevent the fire from spreading to the house and the fire was kept at just 0.1 acres.

The homeowner told Mat-Su Area Forestry prevention technician Ethan Eley that he had gone inside with the fire burning in the burn barrel in his front yard when he heard a loud “Swoosh” as the wind picked up and the fire escaped into dry ground fuels surrounding the barrel leading to the shed. The homeowner then called 911 to report the fire.
The homeowner was issued a written warning for having an inadequate fire break and uncontrolled spread of a fire. He was also given a general burn permit and advised of safe and legal burning practices.
The public needs to be aware that starting on April 1 a general burn permit will be required for the use of all burn barrels. This a change from previous years due in large part to situations like yesterday’s fire. Escaped burn barrel fires are one of the leading causes of structure and wildland fires in Alaska.

Yesterday’s incident illustrates how dry conditions are in the Mat-Su Valley and other parts of Southcentral Alaska due to the lack of snow and why it’s extremely important to burn safely even though burn permits are not required until April 1.