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Students get ‘CERTified’ by county EMA

From left to right, Cordarius Longmire, Jennyfer Maciel and Jalin Johnson assess the condition of their victim and begin planning their transportation options during an exercise at their final Community Emergency Response Team class onThursday. (Advocate Staff/Beth Hyatt)

From left to right, Cordarius Longmire, Jennyfer Maciel and Jalin Johnson assess the condition of their victim and begin planning their transportation options during an exercise at their final Community Emergency Response Team class onThursday. (Advocate Staff/Beth Hyatt)

When disasters strike and pandemonium ensues, few individuals understand the proper procedures for calming the situation.

Thanks to the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, a select group of high school students do. The final class of the program was held Thursday. The program helps give students a look at various emergencies and the protocols used to handle them.

Shirley Sandy, Butler County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director, has worked with the CERT program for two years now and is glad to see participation and interest growing.

“We teach them to take care of themselves first, take care of the community in case it’s locked in and how to assist first responders if they’re called out as a team,” Sandy said.

“It’s getting bigger every day. We’re looking for more instructors, and anybody can teach it. We try to pull out of the law enforcement, fire and those areas.”

This day gave students the opportunity to put their skills into practice as they were tested on light search and rescue, triage, disaster psychology, terrorism and incident command, first aid and fire control. Each student also received a CERT backpack with items such as a vest, hardhat, flashlight, first aid kit and more.

“Currently, we only have Greenville High School students enrolled for this 20-hour class, but we would like all schools to participate if possible,” Sandy said.

“This was our second class, so we are still working things out. We are hoping to have this class as part of next years’ Butler County School System curriculum, and continue with two high school classes per year. Eventually, we would like to add a class for the middle school students.”

Once the students become “CERTified,” they will be able to aid with fire units and medical units if they are called out as a team. Sandy stressed the importance of working together as a team, and said that no CERT individual could take on the task alone.

Students also had the chance to learn how to operate ham radios and used these devices during their search and rescue trainings.

AnnaLee Newton, Greenville High School senior, was approached last year about joining the CERT program. Currently, she is interested in pursuing psychology and counseling once she goes to college, and she believes that the skills learned in CERT will help her as she goes into her chosen field.

“It’s important because when we are off and there are disasters, we’ll know how to handle it,” she said. “I don’t think you can ever really be prepared until it happens, but I think this has given us good insight into what could possibly happen and how to be prepared for it.”

The EMA office later plans to take these students to the state EMA office to show them how learning these skills on the local level can also translate to the state and national level.

Students interested in becoming part of CERT can speak to their school guidance counselors for registration. There is no cost for participation.

“It keeps them off the street, it gives them something to do and it gives them something more to think about outside of their teenage world,” Sandy said. “Teenagers don’t know what they want to do when they grow up, and the only way they’re going to know is by getting out and testing that water and seeing if that’s something they’re interested in.”