Sixth grader attends statewide dsaster response camp, returns teaching others to ‘Be Ready’

Published 7:23 pm Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Luverne sixth grader Autumn Bullock shows the contents of her family safety kit, which she received from the camp.

Luverne sixth grader Autumn Bullock shows the contents of her family safety kit, which she received from the camp.

It wasn’t until after she heard the explosion and rushed to find and help the dozens of victims that Luverne sixth grader Autumn Bullock knew what she wanted to do for a living.

The bomb wasn’t real and neither were the “wounded,” but the opportunity to put her knowledge to the test, succeed and save lives was an experience she said she hopes to continue as she pursues a future career in the emergency response field.

Bullock was one of 94 Alabama sixth graders to attend Serve Alabama’s Be Ready Camp March 25-29. She was the only student from Crenshaw County.

She said the camp provided comprehensive training on emergency and disaster preparedness and response through both group lectures and hands-on activities, all of which culminated in the mock disaster that took place the last day.

“I was sitting in the room when suddenly there was this big boom that literally shook the whole building,” she said.

Students had been divided into emergency response groups such as medical, logistics, search and rescue and incident command, each with its own responsibilities. They were told there would be a catastrophic event, but not what or when.

Bullock was assigned to search and rescue.

“I ran outside and people were lying around with tags with information about their injuries and respiratory status and we’d have to evaluate their mental ability and then categorize them and help the ones who needed the most help first.”

She said that was the moment it clicked.

“Before the camp, I hadn’t decided,” she said when asked what she wanted to do as an adult.

“I was thinking of maybe going into teaching or something, but I wasn’t really sure. Now, I’m pretty sure. It really makes me want to go into search and rescue.”

Luverne Elementary teacher Cathy Wilkes said she mentioned the camp to her sixth grade science class as a good tie-in to their studies on natural disasters.

When Bullock showed particular interest, Wilkes said she encouraged her to apply.

Bullock said she had to submit an essay describing what a safe community meant to her, but her understanding of the question is much different after all she learned and she hopes to share her knowledge with everyone she can in the hopes it will create a safer community.

Wilkes said she’s already started by giving a presentation to her classmates on what they can do to prepare for unexpected and disastrous events.

“She did a wonderful job explaining all the things she learned,” Wilkes said. “And we’re hoping she will be able to present at the board of education meeting in May.”

Bullock’s mother, Andi Bullock, said Autumn immediately went to work prepping her family for the worst.

“The whole way home, she was talking about how we needed to change everything,” she said. “We’ve already started developing a plan of what to do in case something happens.”

She said all students also received a bag of must-have safety items to take back to their homes, which includes a first-aid kit, helmet, light, gloves, rope and numerous other items useful in emergency situations.

“Anybody could, and should, make up a bag to have on hand with just simple stuff,” Andi Bullock said.

Autumn said she will be looking for ways to continue her own education in emergency response, while also taking advantage of opportunities to teach others.

“And I would recommend the camp to any fifth grader,” she said.

Wilkes said Autumn’s newfound passion will take her far.

“I think she’ll be a real asset with the knowledge she gained from it,” she said. “I hope she’ll carry it on through future experiences in first aid and first response.”