San Jose Emergency Drill Organizers Seek Volunteers for Mock Nov. 14 Concert


 
 

Lisa Fernandez | | Monday, November 5, 2007


SAN JOSE, Calif.-- How would you like to spend the day inside a crowded stadium, pretending to vomit and being drenched in fake chemical gas? Sound like fun? Wait, there s more.

You won t get paid. But you will be helping local firefighters, police officers and paramedics practice for the biggest and most unusual emergency drill in California -- a mock bio-terrorist attack on Nov. 14 in Silicon Valley where 500 guests are attending an all-night rock concert at Municipal Stadium in San Jose.

Organizers say it s the first time in Santa Clara County that regular citizens en masse are being asked to participate in this type of drill, which California s 58 counties first began practicing in 2004, as fallout from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The program, dubbed Golden Guardian, is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and managed by the state Office of Homeland Security. A 2005 drill in Oakland featured a mock attack on a concert at McAfee Coliseum.

We ve always had victims, but they ve been off-duty professionals, said Tim Quigley, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Silicon Valley, a key partner of the operation. This is the first time we re testing the real population. It s one thing to be academic, but we wanted to test the strength of the system.

So Quigley is putting out a call to find 500 volunteers who will spend seven hours on Nov. 14 to role-play characters at a mock rock concert. (In reality, organizers will feature movies and live bands throughout the day, plus free breakfast and lunch.)

Any volunteer is welcome: That includes kids, senior citizens, people who don t speak English and disabled people who are in wheelchairs, deaf and blind.

We need a good demographic of Santa Clara County, Quigley said.

Norah Cullen, 52, of Los Gatos, has already signed up. She s a nurse at the San Andreas Regional Center in Campbell, serving a developmentally disabled population, and got the request in her work mailbox. She s happy to volunteer as a victim.

I was in the 89 earthquake in San Francisco and I want to do what I can to help, she said.

On drill day, volunteers will be handed cards with their character assignments. They might be asked to act like an obnoxious jerk, a timid grandma or someone who has just fainted after an unknown chemical gas has been released into the air.

The main story line of the day is that a bio-terrorist attack was unleashed on Silicon Valley, and now professionals must determine what to do. Real emergency professionals, about 50 to 100 firefighters, police, paramedics and public health officials, will be working hard that day, staging a makeshift hospital outside the stadium and treating victims for their aches and pains. All 15 cities in Santa Clara County and the county offices of emergency services are participating.

Even toddlers who show up will be put to good use.

If the mother pretends to faint, our emergency responders have to figure out how to take care of that child, Quigley said. We want this to be as real as possible.

IF YOU RE INTERESTED

To be one of the 500 volunteers, please pre-register by calling (408) 247-1126 or clicking on www.vcsv.us/ . Pre-registration is recommended, but drop-in volunteers are welcome that day too. The drill will be held at San Jose Municipal Stadium, 588 E. Alma Ave., on Nov. 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Contact Lisa Fernandez at lfernandez@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5002.


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