Preparedness best solution in disasters

Terror comes in all shapes and sizes, a lesson Sarah Barragan learned when a man with a suitcase dashed by her in an airport and a unit of security guards followed close behind.

The 17-year-old didn't know what to do. But since she started Carson City's first student emergency-response training, or SERT, she's more confident in her response abilities.

"I'm extra careful now," she said. "Especially in the airports. I'll be traveling over Christmastime."

Sarah is one of a handful of students from the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada taking an eight-week course taught by public education instructor and retired firefighter Thomas Tarulli with the Carson City Fire Department.

The course is free - not just to the students, but to the 30 adults who completed the first course, the 25 taking the current course, and those who will register for the February session.

"I think since Sept. 11, and all of the disasters, the hurricanes, the mudslides, the earthquakes, that there has to be more emphasis on citizens and students alike to prepare," said Tarulli. "Self-preparedness is one of the things we teach, and over and over again we say be part of the solution, don't be a victim."

The eight-part course includes segments on terrorism, first aid, disaster preparedness, search and rescue, disaster psychology, fire suppression and more.

Both the adult training, called Certified Emergency Response Training, and the student training are funded through money from a Homeland Security grant. The money expires at the end of June, but Tarulli said he hopes the program will be renewed for another year.

Tarulli's segment Wednesday afternoon informed students that they should be aware of their surroundings and that, should a disaster occur, as SERTs, they could set examples by remaining calm.

"Everyone will be thinking the same thing," Tarulli said. "There is going to be panic. It's going to be crazy. You don't want to be part of the panic."

Students should have enough food and water stored away for three to four days. When in a disaster situation, they can help direct others to water to wash off any materials that could be potentially hazardous. Only about 10 percent of hazardous materials don't wash off with water, he said. Heating and air condition units should be turned off inside buildings.

"There's only about 60 of us (emergency response personnel) in Carson City and 60,000 residents," Tarulli said. "We can't be at every emergency here in the city after a disaster."

Tarulli is a good example of preparedness. He keeps a disaster kit both in his home and in his car.

"Clothes, socks, shoes, candles, knives, sleeping bag - I have all that stuff so if I get stuck out here, I'll survive the night or week," he said.

Space remains in the next adult SERT class that starts Feb. 9. The class is free. Anyone wishing to register should call Tarulli at 887-2200, ext. 1018. He is hoping to receive approval shortly to teach a second SERT class in the spring at one of the Carson City schools.

-- Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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