This is what happens when I wake up at 6:15 a.m.
I volunteered as a victim for the Fairfax County CERT live-rescue exercise this weekend. It was at the old juvenile detention center at Lorton, which is all of 5 minutes from my house, so when Joe posted about it, I really had no excuse not to come out. As a victim, you got signed up as one of three statuses: green (you were on the scene but unhurt or hurt only a bit), yellow (you’re hurt, but you’re not going to die without immediate medical attention), and red (without immediate medical care and transportation you’ll die). I was assigned to red and had a head injury and difficulty breathing, fading in and out of consciousness. There were folks in red who had pieces of the building sticking out of them. (Also, extra points to my makeup guy for not bloodying my hands once he realized I had a book to read.)
The scenario they gave us (given to us but not the CERT team, like at USAA) was that a terrorist had targeted random apartment buildings. We were in four different buildings across the Lorton campus. After briefly considering being outside (TICKS!), I ended up propping myself up against a cell wall at the end of the hall. The first CERT team members who came through attempted to identify our status for triage. Guy who had me asked how I was doing. I said, in a singsong voice, “I’m fiiiiiiine.” He starts to write “yellow” on the piece of duct tape he’s about to stick to me, and then asks, “Can you move?” To which I responded, “I’m fiiiiiiine.” He scratches through the Y and writes “red.” One of the friends I’d made in line was green, and she watched him go through and tag people, and shrieked, “Wait. You’re LEAVING? You’re leaving. He’s DYING.” “We’re coming back.” “Oh, that’s just great.” She was awesome. I was quietly cheering in my cell.
It was interesting to hear all the goings-on without being able to see them. A lot of the Yellows were screaming in pain, because they’d have a broken arm or something, something not bad enough to send them into shock. There were coordinators, mostly from local EMT and Fire & Rescue, who kept an eye on everything. At one point, one of them peeked his head in at me after they’d been rescuing for about five minutes in my building and said, “Have they noticed you yet?” *headshake* About two minutes after that, two poor teenage boys tromped into my cell with a ripped blanket. I think I was probably their first rescue of the day. They discussed various ways of getting me out of the building; I asked them about my cat. After they got over their initial fears, they did an admirable job. With a little prodding from a coordinator they enlisted two green victims to help carry me out to the field where the triage had been set up.
I hung out there, practicing my labored breathing for like an hour and a half. Both the victims to the left and right of me went black aka “died” while we were out there. It was hot, and there was quite an amount of “real life: you need water?” and “real life: you okay?” going on, which I was grateful for. Fading in and out of consciousness was the best role for a hot day. When a CERT medic decided I might be going in to shock, he said, “Okay. And this blanket is going to go next to you, and we’re going to pretend like it’s over you” to my great relief.
To summarize: it was a lot of fun. It was pretty humbling to see what “regular citizens” with the right training can do in a crisis. And the amount of duct tape on display was staggering. I’m totally getting a carabiner for my duct tape.
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