“Active Shooter” Drill brings East Texas volunteer responders together at Terrell State Hospital

It was a cold and rainy night in Terrell, Texas. On the eve before Halloween…

Friday, October 30, 2015, at 1845 hours, a person or persons of unknown origin took control of Building A at Terrell State Hospital. There had been shots fired within the building and loud explosions on the first two floors of the three story structure. Witnesses reported that an unknown number of children and adults were observed fleeing from the building and running across the large parking lot, heading to the southeast.

While the above may sound like the kind of news that has become all too frequent these days, this particular incident is fortunately not real. In an exercise planned for the last several months, first responders and specially trained civilian volunteer response teams from five counties converged on the location to put their training to the test. Within the first hour of the drill the “shooter” was taken down by Kaufman County SWAT members, “victims” located and sorted based on the severity of their injuries and then transported to the appropriate medical facilities for treatment.

When we think of disasters like this, either natural or man-made, we tend to believe that law enforcement and official fire and medical teams are adequate to handle any situation. In most cases, this is true. Often, however, a disaster can escalate to the point where these resources quickly become overwhelmed. In a natural disaster, such as a flood or tornado, it could take hours or even days for help to arrive. This reality has given rise to the creation of the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT.

CERT trains and organizes teams of volunteers that provide assistance to their communities before, during, and after disasters. These volunteers help others following disasters when professional responders are not immediately available to help, and supplement and support the efforts of professional responders upon their arrival. Volunteers also support emergency response agencies by organizing and participating in local preparedness projects and initiatives. The CERT program educates participants about how to prepare for hazards that may impact their communities and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

In our area there are three CERT teams organized under the Rowlett Citizen Corps Council. Friday nights exercise was their annual emergency preparedness drill put on in conjunction with Kaufman County Emergency Management Services. The purpose of these events is to give civilian volunteers the training and experience they need to assist first responders in the event of an actual emergency. CERT members are trained in the areas of search and rescue, first aid, and logistical support. In other words, they are trained to find the victims, evaluate injuries, if any, and prioritize them for transport to treatment facilities. They are also trained to secure disaster areas to expedite rescue efforts.

About 80 volunteers from EastTex CERT, Rowlett CERT, Sachse CERT, First Response Search and Rescue, and the Boy Scouts of America participated in Fridays drill. According to the website of the EastTex CERT team (www.easttexrc.org), “Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) are trained to take care of themselves and then help others in their communities for the first three days following a disaster.”

Anyone interested in becoming prepared in the event of emergencies is invited to look into a CERT group in your area. The RCCC website has a list of chapters in our area.

Video 1 of 3:

Extracting deceased “victim” from the scene (Video 2 of 3):

Video 3 of 3:

Article by Bob Lewis
Photos and videos by Planet Rockwall.

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