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Students Practice Rescue Skills During Mock Tornado And Chemical Spill

It may have looked like a mass emergency had taken place at Edison High School on Tuesday morning, but rest assured, it was a Mock Disaster Drill. Students from six San Antonio ISD high schools tested their rescue skills while other students acted as victims. The students took their roles very seriously.

"Ok, so his blood pressure is 172 over 60, which is irregular, because he is a trauma patient," says Desiree.

Student Desiree Sharp is testing her nursing skills on student Christian Ortiz, who is playing the role of a victim in a simulated tornado and mock chemical spill. Desiree’s dressed in red scrubs, with a stethoscope around her neck, and a yellow bow in her hair.  Like the 100 student actors who are playing the injured, Christian’s wounds are made to look real. The blood coming out of his ear, the cuts on his leg, and the burn on his arm look like the real thing.

Desiree writes Christian’s vital signs on his arm in black marker, like she’s been taught. There are professional rescue workers, police firefighters working alongside the 100 students responding to the victims, showing them the ropes.

But the students bear the brunt of the responsibility here. The mood here is serious. Triage is in the gym, and there are lines of cots set up with the wounded in between the basketball hoops. The injured are carried on gurneys, gashes are wrapped, burns treated. The students move quickly helping the injured, and those hurt stick to their roles.

Jose Velasquez, a senior, who wants to be a pharmacist, stands at a table by the front door. His job is to keep track of where each patient is, and to direct workers who have new victims to open cots.

"We’ve been mostly seeing lacerations, broken legs, debris stuck into their skin," Jose says.

Jose says he sees beyond the stressful environment.

"Although it’s chaotic, there’s a passion you have for it, to help each person get to safety, to help them survive this chaos," he says.

Elijah Gomez, a senior, is the incident commander and a public information officer.

"To everyone else outside it seems like we’re just pretending here. We don’t want anyone laughing or giggling. To me this is a real life situation—it’s not a playtime," Elijah says.

As incident commander, Elijah is in charge of police, medical, and fire. He basically runs the show. He also has the job of keeping family members informed of the status of their loved ones, and talking to the media. He says it can be tough, especially when there are casualties.

"It’s saddening, knowing that, you know, we’ve lost 50 people, the fact that we didn’t react sooner. Granted it was a tornado that involved—but still knowing that we lost 50 people and 100 were injured," Elijah says.

Elijah’s been learning HazMat, rescue, fire and fire safety at San Antonio First Responders Academy. He wants to be a firefighter or a nurse.

From Dr. Anthony Rogers’s perspective, Elijah may be well on his way. Rogers is the fire science instructor at Edison High School. He’s the organizer behind the mock disaster drill and has held one every four years.

"We try to give them a real case scenario that’s realistic, so they can feel the stress and put into place what they’ve learned. And today they did exactly that. The work that’s being done here, we contribute it to the students, because they’re the ones that did the work. And I would give them an A plus.," Rogers says.

The students here say today’s hands-on practice is invaluable to them. It’s one step closer in preparing them for saving lives in real emergencies in the future.