For two consecutive Saturdays, from eight to five, Public Health students fought five kinds of virtual fires, trained to administer first aid to disaster victims and learned how to recognize signs of a potential terrorist. They also received a crash course in disaster psychology, in order to stabilize victims and move them to a safe location. Most importantly, they effectively learned to become educated members of their local CERT Teams.
Ted Krafczyk taught the preparedness course at the Monongalia County Health Department, which sponsors the local basic training for the Community Emergency Response Team. Krafczyk stated that some of the Public Health students are actually looking forward to more advanced training.
Lauren Branch, a Master of Public Health student participated in the program and plans to someday work in the field of Emergency Preparedness. She hopes to be involved in the planning phases of community readiness to help make sure everyone stays organized in any event.
“Sometimes when disasters strike, volunteers want to help immediately. If a community is not prepared, the volume of volunteers could actually become part of the problem. Back home (a suburb of Baltimore, MD) we have a plan for mobilization centers at one of the local libraries. The volunteers are required to report there first. They fill out paperwork, get added to a volunteer list, and are then sent where they were most needed,” Branch said.
Branch was relieved she could attend the training in Morgantown because she was involved in similar response trainings. “I participated as a community member during a mock virus outbreak. We lined up in cars to receive actual flu shots so we could practice as a community to be prepared for that type of emergency,” said Branch.
The CERT concept was initially developed and implemented by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985. They recognized that citizens would very likely be on their own during the early stages of a catastrophic disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expanded the CERT materials to make them applicable to all hazards and made the program available to communities nationwide.
“I think all people in Public Health could benefit from the CERT training, even if they don’t plan to work in the field. As our instructor, Ted Krafczyk says, if you are trained, that will be one less person the Health Department will not [most likely] need to take care of because you have been educated on how to be prepared,” said Branch.
Bobbi Sykes, Branch’s Public Health Seminar instructor said, “After Lauren heard Mr. Krafczyk speak, I was delighted that she took the initiative to organize her fellow students and encourage their participation in the training.”
Next on Branch’s certification agenda is to update her CPR training. “I am already trained from being a lifeguard, but the techniques and information change all the time.”
For information on the next CERT Training at the Monongalia County Health Department, visit https://sites.google.com/site/moncert