Earthquake Drill 10/18/14

Mt. Washington Jessica CERT Earthquake Drill 10/18/14

Search and Rescue Team 2 at the Mt. Washington Jessica Neighborhood CERT Earthquake Drill – photo by Martha Benedict

On Saturday, October 18, we held the first Mt. Washington Jessica CERT Earthquake Drill. We had about 150 participants including expertly made up “survivors”, 3 Search and Rescue Teams, a CART team to handle pets and over a dozen CERT trained volunteers. It was definitely a learning experience but we got kudos from the pros for pulling it off as our first effort.

The Set up: Just before 10AM on Saturday, an 8.0 earthquake hits on the San Andreas fault in the Mojave Desert, and most of LA shakes for up to 5 minutes.  Damage to buildings, freeways, power lines, phone towers and water mains is immediate and widespread.  All City emergency response resources are immediately directed toward critical need areas and priority infrastructure components – – we are on our own, possibly for days.

Simulated injuries from earthquake - photo by Martha Benedict
Simulated injuries from earthquake – photo by Martha Benedict

Structural damage here in the Mt Washington Jessica neighborhood is relatively light, but there are a lot of injuries from fallen objects and broken glass.  A few homes have shifted off of their foundations or are collapsing.  Most families can shelter in place, but some must evacuate, including some individuals with injuries and special needs.  CERT members, Block Captains, and Volunteers check their own houses and families, lock up, take their Go Bags and gear, come to the Command Center HERE at the Coptic Church.

Incident Commander, Ben Park, sizes up the situation - photo by Martha Benedict
Incident Commander, Ben Park, sizes up the situation – photo by Martha Benedict

Along the way, they observe that landslides along Cleland  Avenue and Terrace 49 have damaged houses and blocked the roads, some calls for help are heard, and pets are seen running loose. When the leaders get to the Church, they begin setting up the Incident Command System Post.

Operations, Communications and Logistics set up. Evacuees and volunteers come to the church and check in with the Volunteer Coordinator. Teams are assembled and the Search and Rescue Effort begins.

Simulated abdominal injury - photo by Martha Benedict
Simulated abdominal injury – photo by Martha Benedict

The Play: Before the teams head out, they receive basic introduction in how to load an injured person onto a stretcher. Team 1 is deployed to rescue a victim with an abdominal injury (luckily it is a week before Halloween and neighbor, Letty works wonders with make up effects!)

SAR 1 Returns with survivor - photo by Martha Benedict
SAR 1 returns with survivor – photo by Martha Benedict

Search and Rescue Team 1 has its work cut out for them – finding, assessing and transporting injured survivors. Team 1, led by Linda, gets back to the command post and gets the injured victim to Triage. Heather in Triage assesses the injury and treats as best they can. A call for an ambulance to transport is twarted by news that any services are at least 4 hours away.

One of the neighbors, who is familiar with CERT concepts, self-evacuated from their lightly-damaged house and walked to the Church. She has reported that her husband, who has limited mobility, is uninjured, but needs to be evacuated to shelter; she said two nearby neighbors are in the same situation.  Bert is going to drive with her, going the long way around the landslides, to bring the “special needs” individuals in to the Care Center for shelter.

Search and Rescue Team 3  - photo by Martha Benedict
Search and Rescue Team 3 – photo by Martha Benedict

Ultimately 3 separate Search and Rescue Teams make 7 trips and get all survivors (and one fatality) back to Triage and Medical Care. The Tent is staffed by neighbors with varying levels of experience. Some are CERT trained some work as nurses or medical technicians and some with basic First Aid skills.

Animals are reported injured and the CART Team is deployed. One dog is found near its injured owner and must be carried in a blanket back to the Animal Care Center for Triage and Medical Care. At another site, a white cat appears to be keeping injured girls company. Someone tries to remove a dog from the care center without proper identification. The person in charge of animal security has to prevent this from happening. Lots of reminders to keep your pet info up to date and carry a photo of you with your pet.

Volunteer Coordinator in Staging Area - photo by Martha Benedict
Volunteer Coordinator in Staging Area – photo by Martha Benedict

Additional Volunteers keep things running smoothly around the base camp. Safety and security volunteers help protect teams from possible traffic and guide people coming and going through the important check-in/check-out process to make sure everyone is accounted for.

At the conclusion of the drill there was a “hot wash” evaluation of what went well and what could have gone better (while eating some amazing tacos, courtesy of Thelma’s Catering). The compiled lessons learned can be found in the After Action Report (AAR).

Planning and conducting this Drill has been a great education for the Mt Washington Jessica Neighborhood group, and we want to thank all of those who helped over the last few months – – we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the diverse talents present in the neighborhood and people’s willingness to help – – Thank You!

Please check out all Martha’s photos of the day’s festivities at Thanks, Martha!
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“Neighbor Helping Neighbor”

Also check out Martha Benedicts photos of the Montecito Heights drill in 2011 – Montecito Heights developed the plan now used as the template for not just Los Angeles, but also for FEMA. They are truly an inspiration to us.