Getting Ready
Columbia High School JROTC students stage a mock disaster as part of their Teen Community Emergency Response Training.

If a disaster hit their high school, most teens wouldn't know what to do until emergency responders arrived on the scene. Thanks to the Teen Community Emergency Response Team training they have completed, the JROTC students at Columbia High are prepared to assist their classmates and teachers until help arrives.

"If a disaster hit their school, roadways could be damaged. It could take awhile for responders to get here," Scott Worsham, Adult CERT program director, said. "If that happens, there will be trained people here at the school already."

Seventy-five JROTC students spent eight weeks training before putting their newly acquired skills to the test in a mock disaster May 8. The exercise had students working the aftermath of a tornado. The auditorium was the set of the drill, complete with failing electricity, debris and smoke. The occasional small fire flared up just outside.

"There is a lot of debris all over the place in the auditorium. The students have set up a command post there," Tom Cash, CERT Association volunteer, said.

Victims of the disaster were provided by the school's theater department. Victims were assigned an injury and given basic guidelines for their behavior. Their portrayals were disturbing.

"We want this to be as real as possible," Rick Wilson, HEMSI paramedic, said. "Some had physical injuries and some were mentally shaken."

When the exercise commenced at 9:30 a.m., the scene was chaos. JROTC students searched the scene for victims, triaged injuries and attempted basic first aid for survivors that included an infant, the elderly and a pregnant woman in labor.

The exercise lasted just under an hour. The students had put their training into action. The disaster scene was an eye-opening experience for some.

"Everyone is screaming. There is radio chatter going back and forth," Adam Goode, JROTC cadet, said. "People are running around. It's a crazy environment."

Now that their training is complete, the CERT backpacks, supplies and equipment, provided to the students by volunteer organization HandsOn of Greater Huntsville, will be stored at the school so that students will have it handy if they need it.

"A disaster can happen at any time with no warning," JROTC student Brittany Miller said.

Page last updated Thu May 21st, 2009 at 10:18