The earth moves. A magnitude 7.2 crustal earthquake sends people fleeing from their homes. On BCIT‘s Burnaby campus just outside Vancouver, employees and students are caught in flying debris and toppling furniture. A machine shop lies in ruins. The biotechnology lab is a radioactive mess.
That was the simulated scene yesterday morning as BCIT, in conjunction with St. John Ambulance, the Burnaby Fire Department, Paladin Security, and many others, held an elaborate disaster exercise designed to train emergency response teams.
The Gory Importance of Great Moulage
Creating fake injuries for exercises like this has a name: moulage.
And a simulated emergency needs moulage that looks real, from jagged compound fractures to bleeding head wounds to deep, ugly bruises. The more realistic the simulation, the easier it is for responders to get into the right mindset, the better prepared they’ll be if a real disaster should ever strike.
“If it doesn’t look realistic, it’s not as effective,” says BCIT Emergency Management Assistant Kelly Minato. ”When people think, ‘Oh, my goodness, that does look like a real burn or real injury,’ then they’re going to have an easier time trying to deal with it and thinking of the procedures and the protocols that they have to do.”
Minato played a role in connecting the exercise organizers with the one-year VFS Makeup Design program. It’s win-win: the exercise gets an injection of realism while the makeup artists get the chance to really test themselves under fire. This is what they live for.
Makeup Artists Put Their Pants On Just Like You: One Bloody, Tattered Leg at a Time
There’s no Take 2. You’ve got to get it right the first time. With little room for error, the Makeup Design crew went into overdrive the moment the plan was in place. Given advance knowledge of the key injuries, grad and Teaching Assistant Kyle Huculak and Program Manager Laura Wright began coordinating prep and fabrication at the program’s state-of-the-art Franklin Street lab last week. That meant creating layers of skin for chemical burn victims, protruding shards of bone, and even a severed hand and bloody stump.
At six yesterday morning, Kyle, Laura, and nine Makeup Design alumni roll up to BCIT and get right to work. The moulage room, just steps from some of the key simulation areas – a lecture hall, a pitch-black corridor leading to the mechanical shop and biotech lab – buzzes. Brushes and sponges are arrayed, Bondo passes hand to hand.
Makeup artists are no strangers to early-morning call times. In this business, you’ve got to wake up fast, whether it’s because you’ve got an actor needing to get in front of the camera or a line of volunteer ‘casualties’ queuing outside your door.
Every casualty is photographed and assigned an injury before landing in a makeup chair. Kyle goes to work on one especially unfortunate volunteer, with a bone jutting from his broken leg, severe bruising around the ribs, and a right hand that’s been cut clean off.
Making Mayhem Is Hard Work
Once about twenty casualties are bloodied and bruised, organizers guide them to their marks throughout the campus, some rooms already thick with smoke from machines, many with blacked-out windows. A fire alarm sounds, then goes silent.
Our makeup artists take a breath, wipe the blood clean, and watch the action unfold. BCIT’s teams of responders arrive first, extracting casualties from the rubble and bringing them to an outdoor triage area. Organizers bark orders. Trucks from the Burnaby Fire Department pull into the parking lot. Fighting through the dark and smoke, responders meet pools of blood and wounds that look disturbingly real.
The biotechnology lab has yielded more than just injuries: a chemical spill means it’s time for Burnaby Fire’s Hazmat team to suit up. Burned casualties are evacuated and decontaminated outside.
A dramatic climax for a dramatic day. Like something out of a movie.
That’s why organizers brought VFS in. “Your forte is film and television and that disaster kind of makeup, so having you come in and do some realistic injuries for us was quite exciting.”
“It really does help the whole production of the event, because really, it is a production. People are training and learning, and everything we take from this will help to improve the next event, and we’d certainly be thrilled to have you guys come back and do it all again.”
We’d like to thank BCIT for inviting us to take part – it was a great experience! And we’d also like to congratulate our alumni – a more talented, harder-working team of makeup artists you will not find.
We’ll have more about this incredible experience in the future, so stay tuned! In the meantime, here’s some more photos from the day as well as a Flickr slideshow:
Update: Check out a behind the scenes video of the 2012 Disaster Day!