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Published: Wednesday, 10/18/2006

'Quake' doesn't rattle teenage rescuers

Tarah Couch, left, helps Becky Morris out of a smoke-filled house during the CERT drill at Owens Community College. Tarah Couch, left, helps Becky Morris out of a smoke-filled house during the CERT drill at Owens Community College.
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After rescuing several people from a smoke-filled building, Sylvania high school students were asked for their reactions.

A baby trapped in the structure had died. "Do you feel terrible?" asked Tom Barnhizer, deputy director of the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency.

Well, to be honest, no, because the "baby" actually was a bowling pin. The students, however, would have felt terrible if the baby had been real, he said.

After a mock disaster last week, Mr. Barnhizer told the students that they had all worked together to do the "most good for the most people," and that they did all they could to save the "baby." Most important, all the students had survived the mock earthquake disaster during a training session marked by victims pinned under a collapsed building; multiple and very real fires, and the injured trapped inside the smoke-filled structure on the Owens Community College campus.

Senior medical technology students from Northview and Southview high schools, who have been participating in the Community Emergency Response Team program this month, received the hands-on training as part of their CERT certification.

CERT educates volunteers about disaster preparedness and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Nearly 40 Sylvania students completed their CERT training by participating in the disaster simulation exercise. Sylvania Schools is the only district in Lucas County that incorporates CERT training in its curriculum. This is the second year for the CERT program in the schools; students who were CERT certified last school year assisted Lucas County emergency responders as volunteers during the severe flooding in the Toledo area a few months ago.

Inside the smoke-filled building, students stayed low, using their hands along the walls to guide them.

"The buddy system is critical. We want all of our rescuers to survive. Otherwise, they can't provide assistance to others," Mr. Barnhizer said.

Student Logan Rupp, an incident commander, struggled with the questions and concerns of her fellow students.

"They are all coming to me. There's all this confusion. It's chaotic," Logan said.

In the triage area, students tended to victims, such as retiree Ruth Koons of Toledo, and Toledoan Kurt Swartz, who told the students that he hurt his leg when he fell onto a snake cage in his home during the quake.

Because of a lack in first-aid supplies, students had to use what they could find, such as magazines and newspapers, student Katrina Hall said.

"CERT will help us help our community. If anything happens at our school, like a fire or something, we will know what to do to help," she said.

Courtney Stambaugh, a Northview senior, was in charge of the triage area. "This is very valuable training for us," she said, adding that CERT-trained people can make a difference now and in the future.

Not everything went smoothly. At one point, CERT instructor George France brought the students' attention to a "victim" who was brought in and just sort of plopped onto the floor.

"Are you going to do anything for the victim who was just brought in?," he asked.

Students Becky Morris and Mandy Somogye found the bowling-pin baby behind a door in the smoke-filled building, but they were too late. "There's no pulse. The baby died," Mandy said.

Pat Johnson, Sylvania Schools' medical technology teacher, said drill provided students with hands-on training for real world events. Students, she said, could help with search and rescue, and can provide basic medical services with calmness and authority. Each student received a hard hat and other supplies to use when responding to disasters.

So far, about 730 people have gone through CERT training since 2003 when Owens Community College, the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency, and safety forces set up an emergency program to strengthen northwest Ohio's responsiveness to natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

Linda Stacy, Owens' special assistant to the president for community relations, said the goal is to have CERT-trained residents in every community.

The program is free and available to Lucas County residents or employees. For additional information contact Owens' Workforce and Community Services division.



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