Simulations are great events because it allows people to learn something but removes the danger and risk of real injury. Last Friday, here at Cal State Fullerton, we had such a simulation – a 7.8 earthquake exercise centered somewhere in Southern California. Any time you either set up or participate in these events, you learn a lot of things. Here is my partial list:
1. Planning events of this size are a lot of work. Maybe it is because I am a detail person at heart, I really want to make sure everything is in place -- Make up and make up person, IDs, forms, maps, food, chefs, permits, radios, vests, handouts, invitations, water, logistics of moving all this stuff.
2. I found a good recipe for fake blood: Dark Cherry Kool-Aid (dry kind without sugar) and a little corn syrup and a touch of chocolate syrup. Stir. Thin to desired consistency. Smells great, too.
3. Fake blood stains everything. Note to all – if your victim will lie down somewhere, give them a plastic bag to lie on so they don’t stain the floor/carpet/cement…
4. It costs money. Granted it wasn’t a lot of money and it takes a lot of labor, but for less than $1000, I was able to create an earthquake simulation involving around 150 personnel from University Police, Parking, Campus CERT team, Campus Medical Emergency Response Team, our University EOC members and a handful of other campus personnel.
5. People appreciate food. At the end, I made sure that I fed everyone. I have two wonderful chefs in our Biology Department who cranked up the grill and made some awesome burgers and hot dogs. I made sure coffee and donuts were at Briefing and cold water was in coolers around the exercise area.
6. Having experts around is invaluable. I had 4 incredibly talented women from the area as event observers. Their insight really helped to focus our future efforts.
7. Having lots of people as victims make all the difference. We challenged our police, medical teams and CERT teams with victims.
There were many “artificialities” to this event, but for the players it often felt real. Fortunately, everyone took the event seriously and played their part. Maintaining character is often not easy, but when done right, these elements make people think about what it would be like when the real thing happens.
Stress is a good teacher, but experience is your life-long friend. I recommend participating in simulations and other "reality-based" exercises as often as possible. You learn a lot, you meet great people, your improve your response and survival skills, and, if you are lucky, you get something good to eat.
PS. I am working on a good checklist for those of you wanting to do your own exercise. Just email me and I will send you a copy.