Preparing for a disaster

INDEPENDENCE — Lily Collinsworth banged on the damaged school bus and screamed, “Someone help her! Why won’t anyone help her!”    Collinsworth, a ninth-grader, had a bloody nose and scraps on her arms. Her friend, Katie Weld, was inside the smoking school bus, unconscious.    But it was all in good fun, Collinsworth said, breaking character for a moment. It was part of an educational exercise for the Polk County Community Emergency Response Team on May 13. Central School District and Independence Police Department also participated, practicing emergency response protocol.    The actors involved in making the tragic accident seem real came from all over the area. In the scenario, they were on a field trip to Central High School when a plane, driven by two youths out on a joyride, crashed into the side of the school bus.    Ashton Mann, a fifth-grader, stayed in character, holding his arm that had been badly scraped.    “The plane hit the side of the bus, tumbled over there and hit the ground,” he said. Mann was one of the more lucky ones in the scenario, and found himself later on the “green” tarp, which meant he suffered only minor injuries. Photo by Emily Mentzer During a drill, Officer David Oliveros checks on Logan Townsend, portraying a boy who took his father’s plane out for a joyride and crashed it into a bus on May 13.    CERT volunteers laid out four colors of tarps to help them prioritize patients: green, yellow, red and black.    Junior Kimberly Weld started on the yellow tarp and was moved to red. Those on the red tarp needed the most urgent treatment and would be transferred to a hospital first. In this exercise, no one got placed on the black tarp — which was reserved for the morgue.    CERT volunteers and instructors run one or two full-scale exercises like the one at Central annually, said Kimber Townsend, program coordinator with Polk County CERT.    “We really challenged ourselves this time with a lot of variables, things that can make or break a real-life situation,” she said.    It was an opportunity for CERT volunteers to learn to work with new people from out of the county, including seven from Linn County.    “We added further challenges by embedding our teen CERTs within the adult teams,” Townsend said.    Sara Linford, 15, checked Katie Weld before removing her from the stretcher. Photo by Emily Mentzer Sara Linford, 15, a teen volunteer with Polk County Community Emergency Response Team, checks Katie Weld for broken bones and additional bleeding during a drill.    “She’s bleeding from the skull,” Linford said. “I’m checking for broken bones and bleeding in other areas.”    The exercise was a success, Townsend said.    “Altogether we had 35 CERT members respond who established a command structure, stood up a treatment center, then triaged, transported and treated 37 ‘victims’ in an hour and a half in temperatures nearing 90 degrees,” she said. “That’s pretty darn amazing.”    Conducting the exercise at Central High allowed law enforcement, CERT and the school district to work together. Superintendent Buzz Brazeau said teachers, staff and students used the exercise as an opportunity to practice lockdown and lockout procedures.    Independence Police Lt. Rick Igou said one lesson learned is that the phone numbers officers carry in their vehicles are not all correct for the schools.    Another “take-away” is a new communications plan and process with two-way radios, Townsend said.    “It proved to be a significant improvement,” she said. “So now it will be written into our standard operating procedures.”    Members of Monmouth Police Department, Corvallis Police Department and Polk County Fire No. 1 observed the exercise.    For more information about CERT, contact Igou, overall manager of the program, at 503-838-1214.    

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