Photos by Jessica Boyer/KHTS
A first-of-its-kind youth training at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station had two dozen 13- to 17-year-olds in attendance Monday for what was likely the only summer school course they’ll take that could save their lives.
“What happens if something happens” was the message spread by community volunteer Gary Scott, 45, of Saugus, who is leading the two-day, 16-hour course that will cover everything from the importance of cabinet safety locks to the safest route out in an emergency.
“We want you guys to be prepared in case of an emergency, and I’m not talking about when you can’t get on Facebook or Instagram,” he joked with the teens.
Schools statewide mandate certain safety equipment in classrooms, but emergency training for the students can help save just as many lives, he said.
This was the thought Deputy Brian Rooney had in mind when he organized the training.
Rooney, who organized the workshop as part of his leadership of the Sheriff’s Station’s Youth Activity League program, got the idea for the training when he was in Oklahoma a couple of months ago for a national police activity league conference, and disaster struck.
The Moore Tornado raged through the Panhandle State in May, killing more than 20 people with winds of more than 200 mph, while hundreds were there for information on police activity leagues, such as the local Val Verde-based YAL program.
“When we were down there, everyone was asking, ‘What can we do to help,’” Rooney said.
The Val Verde program has done a basic search and rescue training for three or four years, but Rooney has expanded the training to include teens from the Walnut, Temple, East Los Angeles and West Hollywood.
“We’re not going to take them into a dangerous situation,” Rooney said. “Locally, we can get to the fire and do clean up after and help the victims.”
To that end, the program helped the teens identify roles and responsibilities for an earthquake happens, such as the duck, cover and hold drill, as well as how to put out a fire with emergency equipment.
“You guys will be better prepared that some of you teachers,” said Scott, who’s the civilian volunteer coordinator for the Sheriff’s Station’s search and rescue team, and has plenty of experience as an emergency responder himself.
Scott received the training from L.A. Fire Department after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, a deadly quake that took place before the members of Monday’s class were born.
“If we can get you guys prepared now, it’ll be a lot easier in 10-20 years to get other people prepared, because you guys can help,” Scott said to his class.
When Rooney asks the Val Verde Youth Activity League members if they wanted to do the optional training, the response was overwhelmingly positive, he said.
“I was asking kids, ‘Hey, do you want to do it?’ and they were like, ‘yeah, when can I do it?” he said. “Our kids love to do community service.”