A CERTified victim

By Nancy Black

I had a compound fracture of my left tibia with excessive bleeding and severe bruising. I also had a bloody nose, but was not in shock, though I was dazed and confused. My teenager had a dislocated shoulder and a huge gash on the leg. We were victims of a horrible earthquake.

We weren’t “real” victims; it was all just make believe. But it was as “real” as possible in every sense of the word. We were volunteers for the Dallas Fire-Rescue (DF-R) CERT program. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. It’s made up of normal, everyday citizens who are professionally trained to jump into action when a catastrophe strikes.

CERT members are volunteers from all walks of life who spend many weekends training to help strangers in an emergency. It can be any kind of horrible situation: a fire, tornado, and yes, even an earthquake in Texas. (Haven’t you ever heard of fracking?)

Our Disaster Preparedness exercise took place at the DF-R Training Center off Dolphin Road. It was amazing to see all the different types of practice facilities they have on campus. From the looks of the charred vehicles dotting the perimeter fences, and the burned-out buildings of all shapes and sizes scattered about, our local firefighters and rescue professionals are ready for anything.

Now more CERTs are ready for action, too. More than nine different CERT groups from communities all throughout Texas got to experience a disaster simulation this past weekend.

A team of professional makeup artists turned us and our fellow volunteers into bloodied up victims of a massive earthquake. Then we were strategically placed throughout different buildings, and on different levels, hoping the CERT members would find us.

I was excited to be assigned the task of screaming at the top of my lungs for help (forgetting briefly that I had just recovered from laryngitis). My inner actress played it up big time for those poor CERT rescuers. I grabbed at their legs, I screamed for my “lost baby” and I did my Academy Award-worthy best to scare the heck out of them as a freaked-out and injured survivor.

It turns out, though, if you’re screaming your lungs out after a disaster, that means you’re alive. If rescuers can determine you’re alive, they move on to the next person who is unconscious. It makes perfect sense, now that I know that fact. They have priorities. But, as a pretend victim needing medical attention, it was a real drag being overlooked by CERT volunteers while they searched for my hidden (fake) baby.

A few of the other fake victims had worked with CERT before. One participated in a disaster preparedness exercise of a building collapse at The Majestic Theater and another worked with CERT on the simulation of a DART train that was stuck in a tunnel.

If your inner actor is looking for an outlet, I highly recommend volunteering to be a victim.

Or, if your inner hero is looking for an outlet, become an actual CERT member.

To find out more about the CERT program, visit