The former Utah County Jail looks like the set for a zombie apocalypse movie, with wires hanging from the ceiling and fake bloody hand prints on the wall.
The desolate feel of the building is a perfect venue for the latest Community Emergency Response Team trainees to put their new skills to the test.
Chris Blinzinger, a former firefighter and coordinator for the CERT program for Provo City, watches the trainees as they prepare for the disaster drill.
“This is an extreme example — not every situation will be like this,” Blinzinger said. “These folks can help with finding a lost child or a lost elderly person with dementia. The course teaches basic principles; it gives an introduction. These are skills that really need to be learned.”
The CERT course offers training in disaster preparedness, fire suppression, medical operations, damage assessment and light search and rescue. According to Blinzinger, this training can make a big difference in a community.
“There’s almost 120,000 citizens living in our city,” Blinzinger said. “There (are) only 100 fireman. So you see, we’ve got a huge gap there. That right there spells the benefit of having CERT.”
According to Blinzinger, every member of the community has something they can do to help.
“Some people say, ‘I can’t do that,’ but I say do what you can do,” Blinzinger said. “It may not be blood and guts — that may not be your thing. But find what you can do and do it.”
Tagen Fleuter, both a CERT trainee and nurse, said the drill was pretty realistic.
“It’s not just about going into a medical situation. You are going to find people with different needs and you need to know what you can do to help your neighbors,” Fleuter said. “I was surprised at how well some of the volunteers played their role, they really did seem panicked, confused and non-respondent. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in community preparedness.”
Laura Zweifel, emergency preparedness coordinator for her neighborhood, said she saw the drill as an opportunity to learn from experience.
“I think we were pretty unorganized, honestly,” Zweifel said. “We’d bring the victims in and we didn’t really know who to talk to or what. I think if we organized ourselves a little better — so that when you got there you knew who to talk to — that would be helpful. Now that we’ve all done this exercise, I think that all of us would know what to do better in the future.”