YERMO Disaster strikes at noon. Your children are 20 miles away in school and cannot be reached by phone or vehicle.

This is the scenario that Silver Valley Unified School District and the Silver Valley Disaster Council are trying to prepare for. Representatives from local municipalities, fire departments, and schools are taking part in a three-day course designed to turn them into a team of first-responders in the event of a disaster.

Conducted by the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the course will turn teachers at far-flung schools and other community members in the 3,200 square mile district into a Certified Community Response Team (CERT), making sure that a plan is in place and implemented to avoid chaos during a disaster.

"This has been a long time coming," said Silver Valley Unified School District Superintendent Marc Jackson. "We live in a very rural area and there is a song possibility that we could need assistance. What are you going to do when a road is cut off?"

In December of 2008, a rare snowstorm caused icy road conditions that closed Fort Irwin Road, the only route to and from Fort Irwin. The road was re-opened before nightfall, but SVUSD faced the possibility of having to house 200 students who live at Fort Irwin.

In the class, students are trained on basic safety items and given disaster-specific instruction, like designating an out-of-state contact in the event of an emergency to bypass jammed state-specific phone grids.

Students in the CERT class Wednesday learned about a disaster's impact on local infrastructure and fire safety, including fire-extinguishing skills. Thursday's sessions will cover disaster medical operations, terrorist weapons, and search and rescue operations.
SVUSD and the Silver Valley Disaster Council (two separate organizations) collaborated on the training event to share resources and because children may be in school at the time of and disaster.

Butch Farrington, a member of the disaster council, said that the rural area's proximity to a major highway and busy cross-country rail lines makes the area ripe for a hazardous material spill or other accident, not to mention the ever-present threat of earthquakes.

"We want to be ready for whatever happens," said Farrington.

This week's training was funded by a county CERT grant.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or adome@desertdispatch.com