MT. PLEASANT—North Sanpete High School will be the scene of multiple mock disasters, including a bus crash and earthquake, on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
Up to 200 people are expected to be on-site playing roles as victims, bystanders or responders to the disasters. There will be a constant flow of ambulances taking the role-players to hospitals. (The ambulances will actually transport them a short distance. Then the victims will return to the high school to take part in different scenarios.)
Significantly, the public is invited to observe the simulations and learn more about the Mt. Pleasant Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT), the group sponsoring the exercise. People arriving early may volunteer to be victims or bystanders. There will be also an opportunity to sign up for the next nine-week CERT training.
CERT started in California in the mid-1990s in response to devastating wildfires, explains Rosella Talbot, one of the co-organizers of the new Mt. Pleasant CERT group. The program is designed to train everyday citizens to take charge of disaster scenes and render first-aid until official first responders, such as firefighters and EMTs, arrive. After a big disaster, that can take a day or two.
CERT training materials and supplies such as hard hats, gloves, CERT kits, and backboards for transporting people, are supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In Sanpete County, CERT groups started springing up about 2004, were active for several years, and then largely petered out. The last CERT activity in Mt. Pleasant was 12 years ago.
Earlier this year, a newcomer to Mt. Pleasant who had been CERT-certified in her former town started asking where she could renew her certification. She learned there was no local CERT group. Meanwhile, Talbot’s husband, Layne, who is a volunteer firefighter in Mt. Pleasant, had also expressed an interest in becoming CERT-certified.
The Talbots, together with the newcomer, got the support of Mt. Pleasant Fire Chief Sam Draper and Mayor Michael Olsen. They recruited more participants and as of July had a class of 38, including nine members under the age of 18.
CERT training consists of nine modules, each three hours long. The Mt. Pleasant CERT group started training Monday, July 12 and met every Monday through Sept. 13. The final meeting was a review and potluck dinner.
CERT training always ends with a simulation, such as will be held Saturday. “This is kind of our final test,” Rosella Talbot says.
Eight scenarios, four large and four small incidents, will be set up at the high school. Class members will break into groups of six or seven. Over the course of the simulation, each group will move to each scenario. Every CERT volunteer will be assigned to be “incident commander” of one of the scenarios.
Keith Chandler of Spring City, who has a lot of experience with simulations, will help set up the scenarios and will evaluate CERT members on their performances.
Family and friends of the class members will play about 25 key victim roles, supplemented by people who show up Saturday and volunteer.