Disaster drill prepares organization for action

There were three dead and 31 wounded after the bleachers collapsed in Cobb Stadium last Saturday. But don’t worry – this was only a test.

The disaster drill was to prepare the Canes Emergency Response Team (CERT), a student-run organization whose members are prepared to assist during disasters and respond to a problem to which the police and firefighters cannot react immediately. Their ability to handle this situation was graded by professionals in different emergency fields.

“Their effort was outstanding and practice makes perfect,” said Chuck Brannet, a paramedic and driver for the Coral Gables Fire Department. “Drills like this are not going to be perfect and if you came out here tomorrow and did this same situation the result is going to be different. No two situations are going to be the same.”

Chuck Brannet and other emergency personnel critiqued CERT on the way they secured victims to back boards and secured their heads when they were on the board.

CERT’s main objective in this exercise was to apply basic first aid and to gather the wounded to make it easier for the paramedics to bring them to the hospital. In the mock drill, Coral Gables paramedics only had four ambulances and there were 34 victims.

If the police and fire departments were available for this incident then CERT would perform crowd control operations instead. However, CERT may be needed and has been needed in the past.

During the blackout last week, city personnel were flooded with emergencies such as people being stuck in elevators. They were stretched thinner when two people were necessary to direct traffic at each intersection in the area. CERT members were able to assist and lessen the strain on the police and fire departments.

Although the members of CERT knew there was going to be a drill on Saturday, they did not know what or where the situation was going to be. The members of the outgoing executive board made these plans and kept them private.

Tim Queeny, a team leader for CERT, only knew an event was going to happen but admitted that this knowledge did give him a slight advantage saying, “It made me more available than I might have been.”

CERT members were notified with text messages through the Emergency Notification Network about the practice situation.

Apart from situations similar to Saturday’s drill, CERT members are primarily trained to assist in natural disasters, although they do not respond to terrorist attacks or police calls.

“Hurricanes, depending on the season, is our busiest time,” Amy Pearlman, the vice president of Community Outreach, said.

During Hurricane Ernesto, CERT was gathered in Hecht ready to clear debris and help the wounded if the storm was bad enough.

CERT can also perform search and rescues on buildings with minor structural damage.

“This is not your everyday club,” Allison Ring, the planning chief of operation for CERT, said. “It is not something everyone does.”

Edward Fishman may be contacted at e.fishman@umiami.edu.

N.C. drill goes wrong

On Feb. 22, a gunman came into a classroom as part of an emergency practice drill at Elizabeth City State University, N.C., threatening to kill the student with the lowest grade point average. The assistant professor and many of the students were not aware that it was only a drill and were terrified, Fox News reported on Feb. 27.

E-mails and text messages were sent out five days in advance to notify students, staff and faculty about the drill, but some students were still unaware. This event lasted 10 minutes and ended with campus police successfully restraining the mock gunman who was using a plastic red gun.