“My baby! My baby! Somebody save my baby!” Elizabeth’s screams rose over the moans and cries of a dozen or more wounded and dying in the darkened gymnasium last Friday morning. Near the very pregnant Elizabeth lay a dead man, blood pooling under the stump of an amputated arm. Men’s dean Enrique Serna rocked to and fro on the bleachers, clearly in shock. Beside him, wedged between two sets of bleachers, Luke groaned, a metal rod protruding from his left bicep. The winds of the tornado had subsided, but the devastation left in its path was terrible.
Yet there was hope. Besides the victims and survivors were others with flashlights – trained volunteers moving quickly, searching the scene, assessing injuries, and transporting survivors to a safe place where they could be treated. Within moments, two volunteers arrived to extract the pregnant Elizabeth from a mess of twisted folding chairs and gently carry her to the art room where other survivors were being monitored. A team of six carefully moved the bleachers and created a stretcher from a tarp to carry Luke, while other volunteers led Mr. Serna out of the gym and got him a blanket.
Suddenly a voice rang out across the disaster scene, “Game Over. Everyone gather in the gym.” The gym lights flickered on, and dead and dying, with wounds gaping, got up and pulled chairs into a rough semi-circle, smiles and laughter on their faces. “All right, now that we’re finished with the simulation, what do you think we did well and in what ways could we improve?”
This past week, the entire school participated in a 20-hour CERT training course facilitated by Jim and Becky Ingersoll. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks.
In addition to PowerPoint lectures, the training included hands-on practice putting out small fires with a fire extinguisher, constructing splints, using leverage and cribbing to rescue survivors pinned by heavy objects, tying tourniquets, carrying injured people, and many other skills.
The central hands-on learning experience was an all-out simulation of tornado damage in the gym. Students were divided into eight groups, and each group took a turn playing victims/survivors, and a CERT response team. This simulation exercise involved several dozen skills learned over the course of the training. Adding to the authenticity of the experience, a small team of students were trained in moulage, the art of applying mock injuries. Many of their creations were quite realistic.
Students playing CERT members worked in groups of two. “Staying with your partner is a lot harder than it seems,” said one student. “What you expected was not what happened.”
Not everything went smoothly, as was discussed in the debriefing session following the simulation. “They never got me up,” said a student who played a survivor with an impaled leg. “I was the first person they saw and the last person they got out. I was alive, not dead!”
The training concluded with sessions on helping survivors with emotional and spiritual care. For example, students learned what to say and what not to say to people who are grieving the loss of a loved one or have just lost a home.
On Saturday night, the student teams tested their knowledge through an exciting game of Jeopardy! They were allowed to use notes if they had taken notes. The game was designed to help prepare them for the online testing to follow.
The motto of CERT is “Doing the most good for the most people as quickly as possible.” While some students have yet to complete the final testing element for certification, we are happy that our student body is prepared to live out that motto in a disaster situation.
This training program is only a part of Wisconsin Academy’s ongoing commitment to training students for Christian service.
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” – Matthew 25:40
Greg Edge, Wisconsin Academy Bible Teacher