The disaster involved a tornado barreling through a warehouse, threatening the lives of several employees.
Although it might have seemed real to some passersby, the Saturday scenario was only a helpful exercise for the 29 newest members of Columbia County's Community Emergency Response Team, who are set for graduation at the April 16 Board of Commissioners meeting.
The purpose of CERT, volunteer members say, is to allow for a backup emergency response team in a disaster.
"The point of CERT is when your public safety (infrastructure) is overwhelmed and cannot respond to every significant emergency during the disaster, you have people on every street (who are trained) to meet basic needs," said Jeremy Wallen, the director of the CERT disaster exercise.
These newest members will bring the county's CERT volunteer numbers to more than 200 people, he said. Their training includes emergency preparedness, fire safety, emergency medical operations, search and rescue and disaster counseling.
Calling on all the skills they learned through the weeks of training, the new CERT members completed the required simulated disaster scenario and final exam Saturday.
At the simulated disaster, CERT volunteers found "victims" suffering from various degrees of injuries and shock. The volunteers used their training to shut off utilities to the building, sweep the building and surround woods for additional victims, stabilize their conditions and help calm them.
The team also conducted a search for someone who had been "killed" during the simulation.
Troy Ward, a CERT volunteer who played a victim in the exercise, said he has always been involved in public service and joined CERT after volunteering with the American Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina.
"I saw this and thought it was a good program and wanted to be a part of it," Ward said.
The CERT program was launched after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and is funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
The first real activation of Columbia County's CERT program occurred in September, after Katrina, when a team of 13 volunteers deployed to Biloxi, Miss., and assisted in the distribution of food and supplies.
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