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Mock disaster 'eye-opening' for Centerville responders

Drill designed to enhance emergency preparedness

It was Halloween, but that wasn't why 13-year-old Caleb Overbaugh's face was splashed with fake blood. Nor did the holiday explain why his brother, Ethan, 15, had pretend burned skin peeling off his cheek.

The teens were among 25 young people who posed as victims in a mock disaster drill designed to enhance the city's emergency preparedness in the event of a real crisis.

Sponsored by the Centerville City Management Team, the premise was that a group of youngsters enjoying the outdoors in a canyon gets slammed by a destructive mudslide. Then victims make their way to Island View Park, 700 E. 450 South, and rescue efforts swing into action. Responders set up two command posts, attend to the injured, communicate with one another and provide information to the rest of the public and the media.

The exercise drew on the skills of Community Emergency Response Team volunteers, the city's Medical Reserve Corps, the local Neighborhood Network and "victims" from the Centerville Youth Council and Boy Scouts affiliated with the Order of the Arrow.

What worked?

Many things, including the overall communication and the necessary equipment.

What needs more attention?

Again, many things, among them: more cold weather precautions such as getting a supply of warm blankets.

"Overall, it was a great experience for all of us," said Corvin Snyder, who in his regular life is the city's community development director but who served as a public information officer for the drill. "Each of us has gone through training, but employing it in a simulation was eye-opening."

For his part, Snyder found his job as public information officer to be more stressful than he expected. He got a firsthand look at how hard it is to balance things among rescue workers who are providing essential services, a possibly panicked general population longing for information, and the news media, which can be quite demanding.

William Carpenter, who was chosen on the spot to be the CERT volunteer coordinator, said he learned a lot as well, including gaps he found in his own training that he plans to fix.

"In a real disaster, things are very fluid and you need to be flexible to handle those changes," Carpenter said.

Paul Richards, with the Centerville Citizens Corps, said participants came from all walks of life — "we had housewives, we had retirees" — and the drill helped ready them to respond to an actual location and know what to do.

Richards was instrumental in preparing the "victims" with their fake blood, pretend broken bones and other injuries.

Centerville hasn't had a major natural disaster in a while, but it does sit on an earthquake fault. Mudslides also are a very real possibility as are fires. Richards also mentioned highly destructive east winds — which he has witnessed — that can blow out of the canyons at 100 mph, tipping over trains and tearing roofs off houses.

John Overbaugh, who volunteers with the Davis County Amateur Radio Emergency Service, said all the two-way, hand-held radio communication went well. However, he thought it might be a good idea to incorporate community emergency radio bands handled by wards and stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a future drill.

As for Overbaugh's sons, Ethan and Caleb, being "victims" for a good cause was chilly but educational and fun.

Both of them noted how essential it is to get correct triage efforts going, in other words, deciding who has the most serious injuries and giving help to those people first.

As for the fake blood and pretend burned skin, that stuff was coming off.

They were going to be Ninjas for Halloween.

e-mail: lindat@desnews.com