BURBANK — From extinguishing a small fire to rescuing someone trapped under a refrigerator, six teams on Saturday demonstrated their best disaster-preparedness skills in an inaugural Community Emergency Response Team challenge.
Teams assessed and treated victims with broken limbs and deep cuts in mock disaster scenarios set up at the Burbank Fire Department Regional Training Center. Team members climbed the department's four-story training tower and searched for victims while others were quizzed on their knowledge of procedures for being on a Community Emergency Response Team, known as CERT.
Resident Jennifer Tompkins said she studied with her Burbank Fire Corps team throughout the summer going over training manuals and emergency-preparedness skills to get ready for the competition.
"Everybody on the team knows everything, so just in case something happens, we can all jump in," she said. "It really was a group effort."
Tompkins became a CERT member in 1998. Since then, she balances her emergency training with a job at the Automobile Club and acting auditions.
For Tompkins, the emergency training she has received is invaluable.
"I know that in the event of a disaster, I can help my family," she said. "I could help my friends, my church, my co-workers, but there's also just kind of the thrill of knowing that you know how to handle something, and that you can save somebody's life or that you can help them."
And Tompkins' nearly 12 years of training has paid off. She said she's saved a co-worker from choking by using the Heimlich maneuver and aided another co-worker who was in shock.
"She has also taken care of some wounds when I have fallen and gotten hurt and cut myself," said her mother, Constance Tompkins, who attended the competition to watch her daughter at work.
Tompkins was on one of six teams from Agoura Hills, Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and NBC Universal, who participated in the city's inaugural invitational challenge, Event Coordinator Thom O'Shaughnessy said.
The all-volunteer teams have competed with other challenges, but not in competitions organized by the city's Fire Department and the Burbank Fire Corps.
Event organizers plan to expand next year's competition to include 10 teams.
"It was a chance for us to work together and do a completion," O'Shaughnessy said. "We get a chance to do best practices and get a chance to watch other groups and how they operate."
Hosting competitions that test emergency-preparedness skills is critical to ensuring that CERT volunteers stay interested in disaster relief services and retain their training knowledge, Burbank Fire Capt. Daryl Isozaki said.
Emergency volunteers, he said, provide needed support for the Fire Department during major disaster events. Having volunteers available and willing to help during those events allows firefighters to work on more critical emergency situations, Isozaki added.