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Disaster Drill Sets a Stage

More than 75 students, faculty and staff participated as actors in a disaster drill on campus.
More than 75 students, faculty and staff participated in the event that lasted until 4 a.m. Thursday morning.
More than 75 students, faculty and staff participated in the event that lasted until 4 a.m. Thursday morning.

Mass panic struck the San Diego State University community on the night of Nov. 6 — a derailed trolley and dozens of wounded bodies set the stage for a life-like trauma scene.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System teamed up with the SDSU School of Television, Theatre and Film for a disaster drill which centered around the SDSU Trolley station and in the trolley tunnels leading to campus.

Theatre students sporting moulage — make-up used to display mock injuries — delved into their characters as trauma victims to simulate the aftermath of an earthquake.

Setting the stage

D.J. Hopkins, the interim director of SDSU School of Theatre, Television, and Film, worked with his students for weeks leading up to the drill.

"We had gallons of fake blood prepared," Hopkins said. "We really wanted to set the stage for a realistic scene — it was great training for both the responders and our students."

More than 75 students, faculty and staff participated in the event that lasted until 4 a.m. Thursday morning. 

"The drill was so important in part because of the disasters that can potentially occur in this area," said Katelynn Clements, a junior theatre major with an emphasis in performance. " It is important for first responders and emergency personnel  to have as close to real experience as possible so if something did ever occur, the would know how to respond without becoming panicked or confused."

Real-life experience

Theatre and film students played a crucial role in the drill was crucial to the success of the drill. Students fully committed to their roles as victims, sporting life-like wounds, seeking assistance from responders and "behaving hysterically."

"This was a great way to test their improvisation skills," Hopkins said. 

Actors weren't the only party that contributed to the scene — stage managers, location scouts, make-up artists, producers and camera operators ensured the realistic nature of a trauma scene.

"There were a lot of people working on this drill," Hopkins said. "Many people donated countless hours of time to benefit the rest of the community."

City-wide preparedness

The drill at SDSU is part of a five day disaster drill by fire and rescue workers across the region from Nov. 3 to 7. A 6.6 magnitude earthquake is the premise of the exercise, allowing local fire and rescue personnel to prepare for the possibility of a large earthquake affecting San Diego.

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