A recent disaster simulation event at Big Bend High School acted as final exam for JROTC students with the help of the Big Bend Community Emergency Response Team and Hillsborough County Emergency Management.

Eighty East Bay High School students are more prepared to handle a disaster thanks to a training event that took place at the school recently.

Hillsborough County Emergency Management and the Big Bend Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) joined with regional emergency management departments to host a disaster training exercise for JROTC students and local CERT teams. During the exercise, the students and CERT team members applied training to respond to simulated tornado damage and numerous casualties.

CERT team members are volunteers trained in disaster response by FEMA They are expected to react in disasters when first responders can not be present.

Apollo Beach resident and Big Bend CERT team leader Dale Perry trained JROTC students at East Bay for six months prior to the event which he used a final exam to give the students FEMA CERT certification.

“A lot of people can be saved by a few people mastering some important skills,” said Perry, who is retired from the army. “An event like this could happen at any time and it can only benefit us to be prepared.”

During the weekly class, JROTC members were taught disaster preparedness, fire safety planning, disaster psychology and search and rescue medical techniques. One of the most important focuses of class, according to Perry, was Stop the Bleed training based on a Homeland Security initiate to teach regular people how to stop bleeding resulting from a trauma.

The high school students and local CERT teams were joined at the event by members of the University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health, representatives from Hillsborough County and CERT teams from Pinellas Park and Pasco County.

During the simulation, students and team members were told that first responders were not able to access the campus area and would be unable to assist for many hours. They were expected to form search and rescue teams, conduct triage and treatment of victims, provide continuing support for victims and communicate with support services for evacuations and treatment of victims.

Approximately 40 East Bay High School drama students, made-up with fake blood and other props, acted as the injured in the exercise, making the event more realistic for the rescuers.

“The event was dynamic as the student’s spoke highly of what they were learning and were very engaged,” said Elizabeth Dunn, USF. Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief and Homeland Security Department representative who served as Incident Commander at the event.

“Personally, I believe practicing skills is important and essential. Having the opportunity to go through the motions will ensure that the students are ready for anything, allowing them to make decisions that will keep them safe and build their confidence if anything were to occur.”
Students and community members were also trained in Stop the Bleed, Compression Only CPR, fire extinguisher operation and cribbing during the event.

Big Bend CERT offers monthly training meetings helping volunteers prepare for hurricanes and other disasters. For more information, find the group on Facebook or visit www.bigbendcert.org.

East Bay High School is located at 7710 Old Big Bend Rd. in Gibsonton. For more information on the school, call 671-5134.

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Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.