STAT: Prepared for disaster |

STAT: Prepared for disaster

Griffin Rogers
South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Jeff Meston teaches the first STAT class Thursday.
Griffin Rogers / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

Most people never see them coming, but they can cause mass casualties or panic in the blink of an eye.

They are called disasters. And they come in all shapes and sizes.

Unfortunately, disasters are sudden and mostly unpredictable. Fires or earthquakes, even a lake tsunami, can appear at almost any time.

So how does a community like the one on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore defend itself from these calamitous events? By being prepared.

That’s one of the foundations of a new South Lake Tahoe program that trains everyday citizens to help themselves and their neighbors during times of crisis.

“It’s really about teaching you 72 hours of self-sufficiency, at a minimum, and then if you’re taken care of, can you help out your neighbor,” South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Jeff Meston said.

STAT, or South Tahoe Action Team, is the first program of its kind in the basin, and it was recently kick-started by a $30,000 grant from El Dorado County.

The first day of lessons was Thursday, when about 30 participants received an introduction to the course before going through fire extinguisher training. The meeting was the first of four two-hour classes aimed at familiarizing citizens with emergency response tools and methods.

By the end of the eight-hour program, STAT trainees will have learned how to stop bleeding, apply a simple splint, protect a victim’s airways, properly move and lift heavy objects and much more.

Their final exercise will involve teamwork in a mock emergency situation. A collapsed building scenario will take place in a hangar at Lake Tahoe Airport, and the participants will have to work together to help save the “victims,” played by 160-pound mannequins.

“They’re going to get to do everything they’ve learned about and put it into practice,” Meston said.

Graduates of the course will receive an emergency backpack loaded with supplies and be officially named an Action Team member. They can then be called upon during crisis situations and assist emergency responders in any number of ways, including helping with shelters, evacuations or road closures.

“It really comes down to our imagination and our needs, but at least we know that we’ve trained them and they have supplies,” Meston said. “If they volunteer, they’ll know what our incident command looks like and that type of thing.”

STAT volunteers will particularly be important to the mountainous Tahoe community because the region is so isolated, he added.

“We don’t have the luxuries of being in a major metropolitan area where emergency responders can approach from four different directions,” he said. “Highway 50 is our Achilles Heel, so to speak.”

The grant allows for 100 citizens to be trained in the program this year, but Meston hopes it will continue in the future.

In the meantime, three more eight-hour courses are planned to run this year.

“It’s great to see that people care and want to give back to the community,” Meston said. “We just see this as a fabulous opportunity to reach out, help train our community and help when the time of need arises.”

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