Program prepares Q.C. in case of disaster - East Valley Tribune: News

Program prepares Q.C. in case of disaster

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Posted: Friday, May 9, 2008 7:49 pm | Updated: 10:10 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Incident commander Georgina Marin shouted as she directed her crew.  "What are his vitals? I need to know," she said. A terrible storm had ripped through Queen Creek, leaving some dead and others seriously injured.

SLIDESHOW: See more photos from the disaster drill

Incident commander Georgina Marin shouted as she directed her crew.  "What are his vitals? I need to know," she said. A terrible storm had ripped through Queen Creek, leaving some dead and others seriously injured.

SLIDESHOW: See more photos from the disaster drill

Marin and her team had been on the scene for nearly 20 minutes when medical crews arrived. There were people pinned beneath light poles, tangled in power lines and crushed by chain-link fences.

"What's going on? What do you need?" Queen Creek fire Capt. Ted Ford said. "We need medical supplies," Marin said. "We're low."

The disaster scene was a mock simulation set up Thursday night at Canyon State Academy as a final test for Marin and nearly a dozen other Queen Creek residents hoping to become part of the town's Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, program.

It's a national program that teaches citizens how to respond in the event of a major emergency, natural disaster or terrorist attack.

"What Sept. 11 showed us is that anything can happen," said Capt. Keith Lloyd, who oversees the town's CERT program. "When that day comes, people are going to come out and try to help regardless whether they are trained or not."

As part of the program, volunteers go through an eight-week course to learn basic training in disaster preparedness, fire safety, evacuations, search and rescue and first aid.

Queen Creek has had the program for four years. It was started by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985 to help emergency responders during earthquakes. Since then, it has spread to communities in nearly every state.

The idea to have a CERT program in Queen Creek came about after Sept. 11. Town Council members talked about the idea for a few years and decided to start the program after seeing neighboring communities move ahead with theirs, Queen Creek public safety director Joe LaFortune said.

Queen Creek has graduated more than 100 people from the program, a relatively small number compared with other East Valley cities. Chandler has one of the biggest CERT programs with more than 500 members, LaFortune said.

This was the ninth graduating class for Queen Creek. As their final test, the team was given a disaster scenario and sent out to the scene.

Once there, they were faced with more than 10 victims. The group moved quickly, circling the area and assessing the wounded. They classified the response needed for each victim: delayed, immediate, or dead.

Lloyd said he was impressed with how they handled the drill. Other firefighters watching the exercise also nodded in approval.

Queen Creek hasn't used CERT for an emergency in the town.

But several people in the program did go to Veterans Memorial Coliseum after Hurricane Katrina to help with evacuees.

The Queen Creek Fire Department handles the CERT program, taking over from Rural/Metro, which ran the program in the past.

Some cities pay for the program through state and federal grants. But Queen Creek foots the bill itself, which runs about $8,000 a year. LaFortune said the town wants to expand the program to include other functions like CPR and animal control.

The program is offered every spring and summer for up to 25 participants. There is no cost to go through the training.

Those who participated in the program said it was a great opportunity to learn ways to help. "That's the whole idea behind the CERT program," Lloyd said. "We can give them training and organization so they can be part of the solution and not part of the problem."

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