CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - The alarm sounds. Students duck and cover. It's the same scene every year across the state of California, but Cathedral City high school stepped it up a notch in what could save lives when a real-life natural disaster occurs. "My whole basis for this academy was, 'where was this program when I went to school'," said Kyle Bashore, lead teacher of the Health Environmental Academy of Learning, or HEAL. The school program teaches life-saving skills for students to apply to everyday life. It piques the interest of students looking to get ahead in the medical field, like senior Jose Medina. "Well I've had a passion for helping people since I was little. So as soon as I heard this high school offered a health program, I jumped right at the opportunity."
After the "Great Shakeout" drill, the program took it one step further. Community emergency response team students, or CERT, responded to "injured" students, complete with assigned injures, lifelike make-up, and props to show how they got injured. "I've seen people with intestines falling out of their stomach, some crazy compound fractures, which is the bone sticking out of the skin, lots of crazy stuff," said Medina.
Students who are CERT team members are all seniors, and have all been involved in the HEAL academy all four years of high school. Once the students pass the CERT test their junior year, they get to participate in the drill. The Cathedral City Fire Department provides the vests, helmets, and medical backpacks for the CERT responders. Medina has done the drill in the past, and reflected on some grotesque things he's attended to in simulated drills. "I've seen people with their intestines falling out of their stomach, some crazy compound fractures, which is the bone sticking out of the skin, lots of crazy stuff." He went on, "going into the medical field, it's not an easy thing to do for everyone, physically and mentally. You never know when you're going to go in somewhere and see someone with a decapitated limb. So your mental game's got to be there, your physical game's got to be there, so this definitely gives you a window into seeing how things are going to be like."
Cathedral City high school is the only school that currently offers the program, but hopefully is only the first of many that will make it more helpful when the big one really hits.