The students attended the Walker County Teen Community Emergency Response Team Day Camp last week in Jasper. On Saturday afternoon, they put what they had learned to good use when they responded to a mock earthquake at the old Community Action Agency building on North Airport Road, where numerous people were trapped and injured.
The exercise was a final test conducted by the local CERT trainers to see if the students could implement what they had learned before becoming a certified member of Walker County Teen CERT.
“They made a few mistakes, but overall I think they did an exceptional job. In fact, to be perfectly honest, they did better than the adults who took the class,” said Greg Wilson, a member of the Thach CERT. “But that’s what this exercise was all about, providing them with an opportunity to use what they’ve learned so they’re better prepared in the event of a disaster.”
Wilson said the CERT training program not only provided the students with a better understanding of their responsibility in preparing for disaster, but also increased their ability to safely help themselves, their family and their neighbors.
“FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recognizes the importance of preparing citizens and began making this type of training available on a national level in 1993,” Wilson said. “FEMA supports CERT by sponsoring Train-the-Trainers for members of the fire, medical and emergency management community, who then conduct training sessions like this in our neighborhoods.”
Wilson said some of the students who took part in the Teen CERT day camp will now become leaders in their own communities because they have the FEMA certification to become CERT trainers. Each of the students received a certificate and discussed what they could do better during a “Hot Wash” that followed the training session.
The Teen CERT training held this past week in Jasper is part of a 4-H project being conducted by local Teen CERT coordinator Genevieve Minogue.
“Several members of my family are CERT members and they helped during the April 2011 tornadoes,” Minogue said. “I wanted to help too, but I couldn’t, because you have to be FEMA-certified to be a member of CERT. So with the help of my family, I found a way for us to get CERT training for teenagers in our community.”
The Community Emergency Response Team concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985 for the purpose of training citizens and private and government employees. The CERT course teaches individuals to be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster.
Wilson said local CERT trainers are hoping to implement the Teen CERT training in every school in Walker County and maybe someday have it become part of the regular school curriculum.
“These kids are our future and we need to start training them now to be ready for any type of disaster, and what better way to do that than through Teen CERT,” Wilson said. “It’s offered as an elective in a number of schools around the nation, and the earlier we train them the better leaders they become.”
Among those who participated in Saturday’s Teen CERT mock exercise were the members of the students’ families (who served as disaster victims), as well as members of the Curry and Thach Volunteer Fire departments, the American Red Cross and Regional Paramedical Services in Jasper.
“We want to thank all of them for helping us make this disaster scenario seem as real-life as possible,” Wilson said. “Everyone did a great job and we’re really proud of all our students. They proved they could handle anything thrown at them.”
For more information about becoming a member of CERT or offering CERT training in your community, contact Greg Wilson at 205-388-1612.