Reporter’s firsthand account of Kirkland CERT class

Former reporter shares her experiences with CERT training

We learned to lift a dumpster — that was probably the coolest thing I took away from the Kirkland Community Emergency Response Team course this fall. But it was certainly not the most-used skill I picked up.

Starting Sept. 20, I registered for the nine-week Kirkland CERT class, which teaches basic preparedness, search-and-rescue techniques, medical treatment and how to operate under the incident command system.

Apart from cribbing — that’s the practice of lifting heavy objects — I learned how to wrap injuries and to take off my gloves without getting blood (or ketchup, as we used in class) all over me. I learned how to put out a small fire. (OK, that might have been cooler than lifting a dumpster.)

I learned how to triage victims — when conducting our search, we only have 30 seconds to spend with each victim before moving on to the next person. The goal of CERT is “the greatest good for the greatest number.” We look for the three killers: obstructed airway, excessive bleeding and signs of shock. In that 30 seconds we can perform a head-tilt chin-lift, apply a quick bandage or, when treating for shock, have the person lie down, elevate their feet and cover them up. As we move through an area, we label victims green (minor injuries), yellow (delayed) or red (immediate).

Once back at the incident command center, we organize into rescue teams. Here’s where we prioritize our work efforts.

During the disaster drill on Nov. 18, the some 30 CERTs organized into two teams: medical and search and rescue. The medical team set up a triage area in the Peter Kirk Room and the lobby at Kirkland City Hall, while the search and rescue teams brought victims of a major earthquake — that was the scenario — to the medical area for treatment.

The disaster drill was the final activity for the CERT program. This was the 24th group to go through the training. In all, Kirkland CERT has trained about 400 citizens.

Kirkland is lucky to have such amazing CERTs standing by throughout its various neighborhoods.

As the journalist for the Kirkland Reporter, I was fortunate enough to enroll in the CERT program and learn firsthand how to conduct search and rescue operations and to provide basic medical care. While I don’t live in the City of Kirkland, I can say I’m jealous of its CERT program.

I want to thank all of the instructors — Christina Brugman, Alex Koloskov, Janice Christian, Janet Merriam, Tricia Paker, Jen Mahan and Kirkland firefighter Kevin Grimstad. I want to thank all of my classmates. It was a pleasure to know you all and to work side-by-side. And I want to thank the volunteers that offered up their Saturday to play victim of an earthquake and the moulage artists that applied some pretty great make-up. (We’re taught, as CERTs, some of the things you’re not supposed to say when you rescue people from a disaster. For example, you’re not supposed to tell someone, “That looks awful,” or “You look pretty bad.” Well, the make-up was so convincing I slipped up and definitely told someone who had gnarly gash on their forehead that they looked awful.)

Lastly, I’ll say this: Sign up for the CERT class. It’s a benefit to your personal preparedness and you’ll wish you had some kind of training when a disaster strikes.

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