Be prepared

Published 11:31 pm Monday, September 15, 2008

Most sixth grade students might not worry about what should be done to help treat serious injuries following a catastrophic plane crash, but two students from Covington County experienced the simulated situation first hand last week.

Jonathan Bryant, a sixth grade student at Andalusia Middle School, and Laken Steele, a sixth grade student at Red Level Middle School, were both selected as “Youth Preparedness Delegates” for the third annual Be Ready Camp.

The 5-day camp curriculum included emergency preparedness, introduction to survival and first aid, developing an emergency kit, creating a family disaster plan, water survival, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, triage, career exploration and terrorism awareness.

The final evening provided a hands-on application of skills learned through the week with delegates working side-by-side with real-life first responders in response to a simulated plane crash.

Bryant, who was code-named “Ketchup” because he expressed a distaste for tomatoes, said the simulated crash was incredibly realistic with life-like injuries and simulated smoke from fires ignited by the crash.

“I was named the captain of our team for the crash,” he said. “Our team had to go into the habitat, the place where we slept, to check for people. Everything looked real. People were scattered throughout the habitat with fake injuries. I saw one person who had rebar sticking through their body.”

Steele, who was given the code name “Baconator” during the camp, said that her team was responsible for triage during the simulated plane crash.

“My battle buddy and I had to go through the crash site,” she said. “We looked for people who were injured the least and loaded them onto a bus to transport away from the crash site.”

According to Steele, the most important lessons she learned during the camp dealt with first aid.

“We were taught about the three killers — shock, bleeding and airway,” she said. “We were told to first treat shock, next treat any bleeding and then lastly ensure the person’s airway is clear.”

Bryant said he learned first aid skills through his time as a Boy Scout, but was taught some new things about weather during the Be Ready Camp.

“We had several briefings leading up to the simulated plane crash to teach us how to be prepared for a disaster,” he said. “We learned how to recognize the warning signs of severe weather like tornados and hurricanes. If you see a green tint in the sky, then that can indicate approaching hail.”

Steele said that she feels more capable of handling emergency situations since attending the camp.

“I would probably be a little nervous, but now I have my backpack,” she said. “We all got a pack that has several supplies. We were given a triage bandages, a wire splint, flash lights, a hard hat, gloves and several other first aid supplies.”

The camp concluded with a graduation ceremony at 1 p.m. on Saturday, where parents visited the camp and met with individuals involved in the sessions throughout the week.

Jill Bryant, Jonathan’s mother, said that she was impressed with the speech given by Jim Walker, director of Alabama Homeland Security.

“He challenged of the children to take the information back to their community and use it to make more people aware of emergency preparedness,” she said. “He said that this program is the only one of its kind in the state and in the nation. Alabama is really leading the nation is teaching preparedness at an early age.”

For more information about the Alabama Department of Homeland Security’s Be Ready Camp visit