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Be Ready Camp Teaches Sixth Graders Emergency Response Skills

MOBILE, Ala.-- Area students were ready for camp of a different kind when selected to attend the "Be Ready" camp in September.

Five local sixth-graders recently participated in the camp, which was held at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. The 11-year-old students included Kendall Mizelle, Adams Middle School; Victoria Saucier, Adams Middle School; Gabby Mitchell, Fairhope Middle School; Samantha Tarver, Adams Middle School and Jacob Ryan, Satsuma Christian School.

The students were selected based on grades, extracurricular activities and their interest in a disaster response career, said Shannon Potter, of the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency.

The students, referred to as Youth Preparedness Delegates, received room and board and a backpack containing a helmet, a vest, work gloves, a face mask, flashlight, goggles, first aid supplies and a T-shirt.

The students learned CPR, triage for the injured, how to use a backboard for back and neck injuries and how to escape a building fire.

Mitchell described her favorite part of the camp: "After the bomb went off and the plane crashed, I saw the victims and it looked like they were really hurt. They had fake wounds."

Patients were evaluated for shock, said Mitchell. The "injured" were taken to a triage area and assigned a color code based on the severity of their injuries -- green, yellow, red or black. Green was slightly injured but able to walk; yellow was injured and unable to walk; red was badly injured; and those coded black were already deceased.

"It was interesting to learn how to do all that stuff," said Mitchell. "Taking the patients to triage was fun."

The rescue teams had an incident commander, an assistant incident commander and a medical team, she added. They also had police officers and firefighters.

Tarver helped locate possible victims of a building fire. Along with two student teammates, she went from room to room to locate anyone injured in the building. According to Tarver, they had been through the training classes with the ambulance service and firefighters that prepared them for the rescue mission.

They searched the building while wearing the face masks and goggles that had been given to them as part of their Community Emergency Response Teams kits. The team carried the injured people not able to walk out on stretchers and triaged them to await medical treatment.

"It was kind of scary," she said. "But I was prepared for it. They showed us how to do everything. The firemen showed us how to put the fire out with the hoses."

The camp, held as part of the fourth annual National Preparedness Month for September, was designed to highlight homeland security measures and equipment as well as to emphasize the role of the individual to prevent, prepare and respond to an emergency.

The students spent the first four days training side by side with a variety of first responders from the fire department, ambulance service and police department. On the fifth day, they had the opportunity to put training into action as they participated in a four-hour mock exercise involving the crash of two airplanes, a water rescue, a land rescue and a fire rescue.

The students worked with an underwater dive team outfitted in real wet suits to perform a mock water rescue, said Potter. The children were in control of the rescues, with one serving as incident commander and some as part of the medical team, according to Potter.

A graduation was held on the last day, with the students receiving certificates from Jim Walker, director of Alabama Department of Homeland Security. The month's activities ended with Alabama Be Ready Day 2007, held in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 28.

The camp was sponsored by the Office of Homeland Security, the Governor's Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. Students from all areas of Alabama participated.

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