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Polk County CERT member Katie Peyree tends to "victim" Logan Townsend, 10, in the council chambers at the Independence Civic Center during Saturday's disaster drill.
October 23, 2012
INDEPENDENCE -- Broken glass is everywhere.
The windows of the city council chambers at the Independence Civic Center shattered with the force of an earthquake, measuring 7.2 and centered off the Oregon Coast.
The building is structurally sound, but the violent shaking injured many people, some seriously.
Cries for help are heard throughout the building, but in the council chambers, where 13 people wait for emergency workers, they seem especially desperate.
A 10-year-old boy has a head injury and a gruesome-looking broken leg.
A woman, bleeding from the forehead, wanders around the room in a daze. Several people are on the ground unable to pull themselves up. Others are unconscious.
Those able to move try to leave, but the doors are stuck.
They are trapped.
"Help us!" screamed Independence resident Tammy Marshall, shaking the doors of the council chamber.
Thankfully, the scenario was just a simulation, part of a Polk County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) drill conducted at the Civic Center Saturday afternoon.
Saturday's detailed drill was meant to come as close to a real emergency as possible. Each of the 30 volunteer "victims" had different injuries and were given instructions on how they were supposed to act -- cooperative, panicked, unable to respond. Injuries -- from bruises and cuts to broken limbs and gushing wounds -- are simulated with makeup.
Perhaps the most realistic part of the scenario is that CERT members don't know when they will be called out. CERT coordinator Kimber Townsend begins calling just before 2 p.m.
"We do these drills in real time," Townsend said. "It's not a mandatory drill. We tell them are going to do a drill on this date. They know at some point they are going to get a call, but we want them to go about their lives because we what it to be realistic. Not everyone is going to respond."
Victims are all in place when Townsend makes her calls. They are awaiting cues to launch into character. Once the first group of rescuers arrive, the injured begin to cry for help.
Jeff Watson, left, and Stephanie Pettingill wait for help as CERT member Sean Wilde calls for assistance.
Robert Marshall, volunteer coordinator for the scenario, said the CERT members weren't aware of the number of victims, where they were, or the severity of their injuries.
"They are flying blind, like they would if the earthquake happened today," he said.
Soon, two members break into the room and begin assessing the injured. One by one, they walk or carry victims into the lobby for evaluation.
Nina Zamudio, a volunteer "victim," said she volunteered to help CERT train, but also learned something herself.
"This is a good lesson for everyone," Zamudio said. "How do you be a good victim? Should you be `Help me first' or should you be more conscientious of the people around you?"
CERT trainers observed and took notes throughout the drill -- noting both successes and incidents that could be used as lessons. The trainers planned to share those during a debriefing.
This drill is the most challenging one designed thus far, Townsend said, partly because it is the first to take place inside a building, which can present a challenge around every corner.
"They're doing awesome," Townsend said near the end of the drill. "It's hard to judge because this is more concentrated (inside). That kind of makes it more real."
Townsend said she was pleased with her CERT volunteers performance, considering the unpredictable nature of the scenario.
"People make their own judgment calls," Townsend said. "That is a big part of the training. You do the best you can with what you have and stick by your training."