Author Archives: Gary Freeman

Colorado Volunteer Capacity Building Workshop

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.

Volunteer Group of Distinction Award - 2011

Koral O’Brien presents O.M.E.G.A. the Volunteer Group of Distinction Award. Photo courtesy of the Colorado Division of Public Health and Environment.

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!

The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut

Over 3 million people in eleven central U.S. states practiced “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” at 9:15 a.m. Denver time on April 28, 2011, as part of the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut.  Other Coloradoans participated as did a number of O.M.E.G.A. members.  There were individuals from states surrounding Colorado – even though we were not part of the 11 states listed as part of the Central U.S. – as well as folks from all around the world.  There were 45 CERT groups registered for the 2011 Great Central US ShakeOut, with a total of 1,492 participants.  A little-known fact is that the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut was part of the National Level Exercise for 2011 (NLE11).  NLE 11 was designed to simulate the catastrophic nature of a major earthquake in the central United States region of the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ).  The year 2011 is the bicentennial anniversary of the 1811 New Madrid earthquake, for which the NMSZ is named.  NLE 2011 was the first NLE to simulate a natural hazard.  If you participated in any way, you were officially part of the FEMA National Level Exercise for 2011!

The message everyone received in preparation for the exercise was about how to react in an earthquake.  Official rescue teams who have been dispatched to the scene of earthquakes and other disasters around the world continue to advocate use of the internationally recognized “Drop, Cover and Hold On” protocol to protect lives during earthquakes:

    • DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!),
    • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
    • HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

Everyone was told that if there isn’t a table or desk near you, drop to the ground in an inside corner of the building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. Do not try to run to another room just to get under a table.

In preparation for the exercise, each of the many types of groups planning to participate was provided not just instruction on how to conduct the drill, but also what other action might be considered by the group that would follow with the purpose of the group.  For CERT teams it was suggested we consider the following:

• What we do now, before the next big earthquake, will determine what our lives will be like after.

• Help individuals and families to get prepared. More information is in the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety.   ( )

• Create a block captain plan to go door-to-door to educate your neighbors on emergency preparedness.

• Create a friendly competition among members.  Host a “progressive party” from house to house, and give prizes for residents who have best secured ( items such as bookshelves, equipment, large upright cabinets, etc. that might fall and be damaged or cause injury.

• Test alliances and MOU’s with your critical need vendors, community leaders and sponsoring organizations.

• Organize a CERT refresher course.

• Make sure all neighbors have an “OK” or “HELP” sign for their windows.  Educate them that after an earthquake, they should post the sign in the window so neighbors know that everything is okay or that help is needed.

• Check and test your team’s emergency equipment – fire extinguishers, first aid, flashlights, food, crank radios, satellite phones, generator, and fuel; make sure CERT members know the location and how to utilize supplies.

• Finally, participants were encouraged to expand upon their knowledge of earthquakes and earthquake potential in their community.  One source for information, videos, provide many thoughts about the subject ( ).

Another little-known source of information is our own Colorado Division of Emergency Management (CDEM).  Lots of excellent information can be found on their Colorado Earthquake Information page ( which includes a chart of earthquake occurrence information for Colorado dating back to 1867.

So, whether you participated on April 28th or not, when things start shakin’ remember DROP, COVER and HOLD ON!  It may save your life in an earthquake.