The alarm sounds and Vancouver Community College's Broadway campus empties. Students and staff gather in a field across the road. Once they're given the "all clear" signal, they go back to their classrooms.
It's the annual ShakeOut B.C. earthquake drill. But for the health care students, the real drill has just begun.
Volunteers given realistic makeup wounds are strewn about the building's third and fourth floors. The actors do their best impressions of suffering earthquake victims and groups of nursing, dental hygiene and health-unit coordinator students are led from victim to victim.
"Some of it is very realistic," said VCC Health Sciences dean Debbie Sargent.
"We have casualties who have fractures, who have had seizures, who are pregnant and are experiencing cramping, people who have heart disease and have heart, chest pain.
All kinds of disorders and casualties are being found by groups of students as they rotate between the two floors."
Trami Pham is a student in VCC's health unit coordinator program. Her forehead was adorned with a big gash and her shirt looked blood-stained.
"I've got a head laceration," she explained, adding that she didn't feel her performance was especially convincing.
"I'm terrible. I'm pretending to be unconscious."
"I feel like it puts the [bachelor of science in nursing] students in a real life situation, rather than having, like, having to read off paper and imagine it," said Pham. "This way they actually get to experience it."
Andrea Jung has been a practical nurse for 12 years, but she's back at school as a BSN student.
"It's been pretty real," she said of the training exercise.
"It is realistic when you look at the person's eyes and you can see that they're scared. For me, as a nurse, I just want to stay with them and help them, but this exercise is to triage," said Jung.
"It's to see who is the most important person to attend to right away, who can be delayed and who's okay and just needs to be kept calm."
According to ShakeOut B.C., more than 800,000 people in the province took part in the annual drill this year. Worldwide, more than 50 million people participated.
But VCC decided to take the opportunity to step up the drill and provide the training scenarios for health-care students.
"It's a very practical experience for them to really understand and realize what could happen if there was a real earthquake or another kind of event," said Sargent.
"Shakeout B.C. is just a perfect, perfect exercise for people to gain awareness of what they need to do in case of an earthquake.
The practice makes it more real and helps them to be better prepared if there was an earthquake."
Jung agreed that the drill seemed helpful for training.
"it's been a really great exercise — not easy to go into a disaster," she said.
"It's something that I've never personally been through, but it's been a really good experience to see how I would feel, like, I'm feeling the panic, the heart rate racing and just, what should I do? Who do I go to first? It's been challenging but also fun."
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