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Vallejo, Calif., ALERT Readies Citizens for Disaster

VALLEJO, Calif. -- What may be the most important information Vallejo s All Emergency Response Team (ALERT) series has to offer -- the emergency medicine component -- comes in classes three and four, said Vallejo Fire Department instructor Capt. Ann Cavanaugh.

The purpose of the the program, sponsored by the U.S. Homeland Security Departmnent, is to train Vallejoans to form teams to respond to emergencies in their own neighborhoods.

Editor s note: Third in a weekly series on a new emergency training program in Vallejo.

In class three of the six-week series, the focus is triage, treatment areas and transportation. Participants learn to tell how badly injured someone is and tag them with the appropriately color-coded tape for the professional rescue personnel who will come later. They practice lifting and carrying wounded people without further injuring them and how to stabilize those with acute urgent needs who will likely not survive the wait otherwise.

These skills are something people won t only apply in a major disaster, but can also use on a regular basis, Cavanaugh said. You ll know better what constitutes a serious injury and what to do about it.

This is called triage, from the French to sort, and refers to assessing patients medical state and tagging them with a universally understood color. This allows emergency personnel to know immediately how many are seriously injured and who they are - information critical to determining what resources are needed where.

In a large-scale emergency, team members will be asked to make these initial assessments - uninjured or walking wounded (tag green), injured but can wait (tag yellow), in immediate need (tag red) and non-salvageable (tag black) - taking no more than two minutes per victim.

Students were told how to recognize and treat the three killers - a blocked airway, profuse bleeding and shock - and also how to recognize when someone can t be helped in time.

Keeping a running tally of how many are wounded, and at what level, on a piece of white tape attached to one s pant leg, is a simple and efficient way to quickly get officials up to speed, participants learned.

Also discussed was how to set up and label treatment areas for the various levels of wounded, considering the area s size, access and noise levels.

Transporting the injured is usually the most labor-intensive, time-dependent and time-consuming parts of emergency response, Cavanaugh said. It s also some of the most difficult, she said.

Those still ambulatory after a disaster will be called upon to help carry those who aren t, and how these people are taken from where they are to where they need to be depends mostly on whether they seem to have suffered a back or neck injury, she said.

Students practiced rolling and strapping a back injury patient onto a rigid, flat, portable object like a door, which takes a team of at least four. Lifting and carrying a non-back injured victim, in a seated position, involves two people, one on either end, to grab him around the chest from behind and at the knees from the front.

Calling the class really cool, trainee Danielle Shrives, 18, said: I ve always wanted to be in a position to be able to help, and this is giving me the opportunity to do that.

E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.

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