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School takes on simulated disaster

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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A tornado struck Maria Montessori Charter Academy’s campus last week.
The staged disaster was to test seventh- and eighth-graders in emergency preparedness for their Teen Community Emergency Response Team or CERT certification.
Held Nov. 10, the charter school students tested out their search and rescue, triage, first aid, victim assistance and other emergency response skills. So when disaster strikes, the 22 Maria Montessori students are prepared.
The campus transformed into a disaster zone as they replicated what the aftermath of a tornado might look like. Mulage, or victim makeup, was applied to the faces of wounded students and stretchers were used to transport the injured to a safe location.
Teacher Laura Crouch said many of the students have put their training to the test during real-life situations.
“It’s showing up in their real lives,” said Crouch, who is CERT certified and conducts the training.
The certification has been proven useful in the case of one student who witnessed an elderly woman who fell down steps. The student took authority, knew that a broken hip was a realistic possibility for the fallen woman and knew what to tell trained professionals when they arrived on the scene. Another student was tested when he accidentally sliced his hand while at home. He knew to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. During the Auburn 49 Fire last year, another student’s mother was frazzled when the family was told to evacuate their home. The student kept her mother calm and created a list of things they needed to take with them.
But not only does the training, which students have participated in for three hours every Friday since the start of the school year, carry into their lives, it’s something the students enjoy, Crouch said.
“They love it – it’s one of their favorite things,” she said.
And parents see the importance of it as well.
“They (parents) feel better about leaving their kids home alone,” Crouch said. “If they’re home alone, they know what to do (in case of an emergency).”
Maria Montessori Charter Academy was the first kindergarten through eighth-grade elementary school in the U.S. to pilot the program in the 2008-09 school year. Maria Montessori is also the first and only Placer County school to run the Teen CERT program. Typically the teen program is run in high schools, but at Maria Montessori it’s the seventh- and eighth-grade students who have become certified.
Carol Willis, the PIO and Battalion 3 Captain with Sacramento CERT, is the Teen CERT coordinator for Sacramento and taught the first class at Maria Montessori. Willis said the curriculum is standardized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and trainees receive the same instruction, no matter their age.
“All CERT classes are the same whether it be adult or teen classes,” Willis said in an e-mail. “The only difference is in the delivery.”
Rocklin Police and Fire, as well as Sacramento CERT and American Medical Response’s State Disaster Medical Services Unit were on hand to assist during last week’s mock disaster to make it as life-like as possible.
Rocklin Fire Battalion Chief Tim Palmer has been an observer of the mock disaster previously. He said the role of the Rocklin Fire crew at the demonstration was to make suggestions and recommendations after the drill.
“Having trained responders is almost always helpful as long as everyone understands their role and knows when it is time to step aside and let the system work,” Palmer said.
Palmer said he also finds the seventh- and eighth-grade aged students to be a perfect time to start training for larger scaled emergencies. During their elementary schooling, students learn about disaster preparedness related to stop, drop and roll, having a meeting place and other key responses.
“These are all building blocks to the larger emergency,” Palmer said. “Some of the children really start to develop a career path in emergency preparedness, and some realize it isn’t for them.”
For Crouch, she said it’s also a tool to teach students what-if scenarios.
“Hopefully they’ll never have to use this, but if they do, they will know what to do,” she said.

For more photos: Maria Montessori Charter Academy holds mock disaster