And then sometimes I spend my mornings playing in an old prison...

I mentioned HERE that I was considering playing a victim for a local disaster response drill.

After nearly changing my mind the morning of (pillows are so comfortable....) I got myself out of bed and headed out to :

An abandoned prison.

Did I mention that part? That this whole scene was taking place in an abandoned prison/former cold war bunker?

I'm already excited.


So I get there and join a line of people waiting to find out their fate - i.e. what injury their character is going to have. At one point we hear that today's excercise scenario is an earthquake. I start making friends with other people in line, and I near the registration table. And the man asks "how bad do ya wanna be?" and he gestures to signs listing: Red (serious), Yellow (less serious but still bad) and Green (not super serious).

I hear something about "impalement" from the person in front of me so I'm intrigued and just tell the guy that I'll do whatever they need (picturing myself hanging over some fence with a rod poking through my body until I'm found by the rescuers.)

He says he needs more Green people and my dreams of gnarly injuries are dashed.

Actually, first he looks me up and down and says "I'm not checking you out, just making sure you have on long pants and closed toes shoes."

Um, right.

Then he looks at my face, musing about my injury possibilities, and states "well you're too pretty to give you a black eye..."

Am I getting a role or a date out of this?....

And finally he hands me a card and sends me to "moulage" (the makeup area). And then - there's a ray of hope.


"Impaled glass." Excellent.

I walk into the moulage area which is a funny mix of people doing makeup, and people already made up noshing on bagels waiting for the drill to start.
Moulage area

My turn at the makeup table

Just hangin' out. You know, with terrible wounds.
So cheerful to have a giant nail hanging out of her shoulder blade....

We all look like extras from the Thriller video. And everyone's pretty happy. At one point, a lady called out to me "I like your glass!" nodding toward the broken piece jutting out of my arm. I returned with a "I like your hand!" gesturing towards what looked to be missing fingers.

The organizers finally call us together and explain a little bit about the day. The scene is taking place throughout several buildings so it could be hours before we are "found." We're told to be in character all we want when the responders are there but to please not egg it on otherwise as we'll get hoarse and "annoy the people around us."

Ha! Thank you for that, considering we could be listening to "victims" for hours.

My team is taken to our building (exactly what you'd expect when you hear "abandoned prison")and we start picking out our own cell to remain in until we're found.

Nice, right?

The cell I chose
I  started making friends with the victims down the hall as we awaited our rescue. "Oh HEY girl!"

And it feels weird to just be standing in a prison cell with nothing to do so of course I started taking photos of my injury and checking Facebook.

Awesome Gross, right?

And after awhile we are finally told that the responders are getting close. So we all shove back into our cells and I start hearing everyone down the halls start moaning and yelling. Which is awkward so I start laughing quietly and only offer an additional "help!" every now and then out my cell window.

And...

nothing.

No responders actually come in for quite awhile after this begins. So people fall into an almost predictable routine and I hear many rounds of the following:

"Help!"
"We're in here!"
"I'm trapped!"
"Hello?!"

all coming out of cells that I can't see from inside my own cell, so it feels like we are dogs aimlessly barking in a kennel together. I continue to occasionally offer my own barks of "help...?" out the window and the whole chorus repeats itself over and over.

"Help!"
"We're in here!"
"I'm trapped!"
"Hello?!"

I start chatting with some people about how they got involved with disaster response in between more rounds:

"Help!"
"We're in here!"
"I'm trapped!"
"Hello?!"

At one point, we hear "there's smoke at the end of hall, but don't worry, that's part of the scenario!"

Oh good, this is getting even creepier!

The rounds start to vary.

"Hello!?"
followed by a sad:
"they forgot about us...."
and at one point a:
"I rescind my offer of kittens!"
To which we all laugh and then go back into character.

I occasionally here yelling coming out of other buildings around ours and another guy working the drill walks by, looks in my cell and says "sheesh, what you really need to worry about is that toilet!":

So I change my routine and yell out "HELP! I USED THE TOILET!"

It made him laugh anyway.

Finally, our actual responders arrive. I get into character and start yelling for help and try to make it a bit of a challenge for the responders to "treat" me, because that's what we are there to do.

And I can tell one of the guys treating me is already a little out of his element. So then a deaf woman came into my cell trying desperately to distract the responders. The flustered guy holding my arm gets more uncomfortable until his safety glasses fell right off his face.

I start hoping I'm never actually in need of rescue from this guy....

They get me fixed up and slap a card on my wrist and a duct tape label on my shirt and send me on my way to the medical area set up outside.

And while outside, I notice more makeshift supplies include:

A box of feminine products that are being used as bandages.


Which, hey, in a real disaster, community volunteers use whatever is available. Still made me and another responder laugh though. And made me thankful my wound was already bound by cloth and not with whatever was in that bag....

I sit down and wait for the fireman to come.

Oh right! Another thing I forgot to mention. Actual hot responsible fireman participated in this drill with us.

After awhile of sitting in the "Green" area, a responder comes over and asks my group for a volunteer. Being curious, I raise my hand and we end up jogging over to the Red area.

Where I'm told to hold on to this guy:

That is a man who did get a card telling him he'd be completely impaled with a rod going through his abdomen.

Lucky.

So now me and another lady are supposed to keep him on his side by holding him. Awkward.

Finally, the fireman arrive and this whole thing is taking longer than we expected so people are slowly starting to break character. A plate of sandwiches comes around and even though the scene now looks real and scary like this:




"Victims" are now starting to happily chomp away at food as if they weren't impaled like this:



And I sit a little while longer to admire the fireman  to play my role but eventually the entire drill goes over the allotted time, and I decide to leave (I have homework calling, afterall). And "impaled man" and his family also decide to leave. And as we walk away from the carnage behind us, in our fake blood and torn clothes and duct tape, we pick up our sandwiches and complimentary reusable grocery bags, and go back to normal life.

Probably hoping harder than ever that we never have to actually be rescued in real life.

Unless, of course, it's by those fireman.