For the second year on a row I have attended the annual Colorado Volunteer Capacity Building Workshop. This one-day workshop provides members of the Medical Reserve Corps, Colorado Volunteer Mobilizer, American Red Cross, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, Community Emergency Response Team members, Citizen Corps volunteers and other volunteers, a day of training and educational opportunities as well as the opportunity to participate in an exercise. Class topics included: Information Sharing – Joint Information Systems and Social Media; CERT and Citizen Corps Programs; two modules on the CERT supplemental sessions on Animal Response; Preparing for Workplace Disasters; Decreasing Stress: Psychological First Aid; Incident Command System 100 and 700; Lessons Learned: How We Responded to the Fourmile Canyon Fire; Triage Training; Animal Rescue; Colorado CERT and Citizen Corps Programs; and many others. The more than 25 sessions were not just about CERT, but were all related to emergency management/emergency response by a variety of volunteers. Attending O.M.E.G.A. members included Rosemarie Critchfield and Gary Freeman.
After the sessions were completed, all 175 attendees participated in a three-hour mock disaster exercise relating to substantial damage from a tornado. North Central Region staff had requested assistance from O.M.E.G.A. to conduct the CERT part of the exercise and Gary had volunteered to handle the task. We had 25 “working” CERT participants, plus several other observers organized into roughly five teams of five members who were tasked with “light” search and rescue (LSAR) of nearly 50 survivors and locating a few victims. Interestingly, there were no human victims and no moulage necessary. The survivors were instead inflatable mannequins with pre-created triage tags affixed, staged and placed around two floors of the convention center. There were also animals placed around that same area and one CERT LSAR team was assigned the task of rescuing the animal victims under the guidance of animal rescue specialists/instructors.
During the mock disaster exercise, technology was present everywhere in that rescued individuals’ triage tags were bar coded and when an individual was brought to triage the triage tag was scanned using handheld devices which wirelessly transmitted the check-in information and patient condition remarks to the triage area so as to expedite handling, provide appropriate treatment assignment and speed movement of survivors. If you have the opportunity to see this equipment in action, by all means take it; the demonstration went well and provided a good example of the capabilities.
The surprise of the day came at lunch. O.M.E.G.A. received the Volunteer Group of Distinction Award – 2011 from Colorado Disaster Preparedness Programs, which was presented at the workshop. Koral O’Brien presented the award, which Gary accepted on behalf of O.M.E.G.A. Koral is from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and is their Colorado Volunteer Coordinator. O.M.E.G.A. member Rosemarie Critchfield was also present at the luncheon to witness the event.
If you have not yet participated in this annual Workshop, you might really want to watch next spring for the announcement as it is well worth your time to attend. Again, congratulations to all of you for your contributions to what O.M.E.G.A. does as yours were the efforts that brought this award to the entire O.M.E.G.A. team!