It’s not your typical graduation ceremony. Of course, there will be congratulations and refreshments, but the conclusion of the University of Houston’s Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT) training also will include a disaster simulation (complete with victims and a search and rescue mission).
Since 2011, UH’s Emergency Management Department has hosted this training program that prepares members of the University community for potential campus crises. This year, the program is training 22 participants to address potential emergency situations. Since its debut two years ago, 95 people (faculty, staff and students) have completed this course.
UH’s CERT training is part of a national initiative and sponsored by the city of Houston and Harris County. Faculty, staff and students at UH can enroll in this eight-day course at no charge. Sessions are conducted once a week for three hours. Instructors include members of the UH Fire Marshal’s office, the Houston Fire Department and the Houston Police Department.
The end-of-semester exercise will test course participants with a semi-realistic disaster situation at 1 p.m., Nov. 15 at Building 13 in UH’s Energy Research Park.
“They will see people laying around acting as if they are hurt,” said Joe Mendez, UH Director of Emergency Management. “Some will be outfitted to look ‘torn up.’ It’s a disaster drill, so CERT participants will arrive with a specific objective … to help save lives.”
During the exercise, a team of evaluators will observe the drill and deliver feedback on what went right or wrong.
Although UH CERT training is geared toward campus emergencies, participants can apply what they have learned to emergencies in their homes or communities, Mendez added.
CERT students learn disaster preparedness, fire safety, basic medical operations, search and rescue, team organization and terrorism awareness. At the conclusion of the course, participants will have insight on how to support official emergency responders and assist with recovery efforts.
“In many instances, emergency responders need a support team,” Mendez said. “They need people to help set up staging areas, put up medical tents and direct people.”
CERT training is conducted each fall and spring. For details on future CERT classes, contact Kelly Boysen, Emergency Management Specialist at UH, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the CERT program and training, please view the national website at http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/.