Civilians tested in intense mock disaster training

OLATHE, Kan. - More than two dozen moaning, bloody victims of a powerful tornado lay sprawled across a parking lot and scattered around a warehouse. Their would- be rescuers: their neighbors and friends.

The tornado is imaginary, but the scenario is all too real across Kansas and Missouri during severe weather season.

Wednesday night, nearly two dozen trainees participated in a drill meant to test their readiness as members of Johnson County's "Community Emergency Response Teams," more than 3,000 normal citizens trained to respond to disasters with and before traditional first responders.

Their drill used some 30 volunteer victims with various injuries buried under fake rubble, trapped near burning cars or otherwise in dire straits.

For 90 minutes, an incident commander-- in this case Navy veteran James Donahue-- dispatched his teams to triage and treat gruesome fake injuries, put out fires and move debris.

He said he signed up for the free six-week training class to be better able to help those closest to him.

"You've got to prepare to help the kids next door," he said.

Firefighters from the Olathe Fire Department oversaw the training and says CERT members can and do make a difference in disaster scenarios.

"They're extremely useful in those types of situation," Captain John Sanches said. "They're kind of our ears."

CERT training is free and those interested can sign up by contacting Olathe FD. Sanches said the next class later this month will address a growing demographic need and be conducted entirely in Spanish.

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