In the event of an emergency, several Josef Korbel School students now have the knowledge and ability to come to the aid of their fellow community members.
The students joined dozens of members of the Denver community on March 26 in becoming certified members of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which trains individuals for disaster preparedness and response.
The program is designed to educate people on the hazards in their area and teach them such skills as fie safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. In the event that disaster strikes, the idea is that CERT members will be able to assist their fellow citizens when professional responders are not yet on the scene.
In the final certification exercise, the volunteers used the knowledge they learned in three classroom sessions and applied it in a mock disaster scenario. Using a church as the training area, the CERT participants were told that a natural disaster struck the building and a number of people were trapped inside.
"The disaster response exercise was a great learning experience and also entertaining," first-year International Security student Ryan Hull said. "It allowed us to put the skills we had learned in class to use. While there were many jokes to be made among friends, the exercise turned serious once we actually began searching for survivors and rescuing 'victims.' We also got really nifty supply kits which will be extremely useful if a disaster ever strikes."
Equipped with hard hats, flashlights, emergency vests, goggles and a number of other items, the CERT volunteers divided into several teams to search the building and treat any victims they found for wounds or shock. The victims were then transported to the basement where another team set up a triage post.
Many of the students felt the skills they learned from CERT training will not only benefit their careers but also their communities.
"I would say that my primary motivation was to learn more about the homeland security process from the perspective of those working on the ground," first-year International Security student Steve Myers said. "Also, I found it a great way to become a contributing member of the greater Denver community."
Hull shared a similar statement.
"I signed up for it because of my interest in homeland security," he said. "Many people don't know what to do in the event of a disaster and this course teaches you how to be prepared and what actions can be taken to save lives."
The CERT exercise was led by instructor Dave Cook of OMEGA, an independent response group made up of volunteers who act as a resource to any official law enforcement, fire or other incident command agency.
Before the certification exercise, CERT volunteers attended three classes in which they learned how to prepare a 72-hour disaster kit, learned the Incident Command System, which lays out the leadership order, among other things, and how to identify airway obstruction, excessive bleeding and shock--the common killers of victims of tragedies. Clearing victims from buildings and seeing the difference between how chemical based fire extinguishers operate compared to water based ones were also part of the training. The CERT training course also addressed the seven signs of terrorism, which are: surveillance, elicitation, tests of security, acquiring supplies, suspicious persons out of place, trial runs and deploying assets.
-M. Schwinn, MA Candidate in International Security
Josef Korbel School of International Studies