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C-CERT Prepares Students, Community For Disasters

Heights Editor

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

The Boston College Office of Emergency Management recently launched the fourth BC Campus-Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT) course to teach and prepare community members to deal with emergency or disaster situations.

According to their website, the C-CERT course offers important life skills, including hands-on medical operations, light search and rescue, fire suppression, disaster psychology, and a full scale disaster simulation. For four days throughout March and April, eight participants, ranging from BC students to dining staff and police officers, were offered training in how to respond to various types of emergencies. These emergencies included active shooters, explosions, and natural disasters. The most recent class—and the fourth class to graduate since the establishment of the C-CERT program in 2009—graduated on April 22. To date, C-CERT has trained over 60 people.

According to John Tommaney, BC Director of Emergency Management, the CERT program is a national effort by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help average people become volunteers who can assist in an emergency. The program culminates in a simulated disaster, where the students work together through an emergency to find, assess, and identify victims. During the spring 2012 class, Tommaney and others from Emergency Management conducted the disaster simulation with members of Eagle EMS, who could respond professionally and care for the victim after the C-CERT team rescued them.

“The disaster simulation is probably the highlight of the program because students get to experience firsthand how all of their training comes together under a somewhat realistic emergency, including screaming injured people, hazards such as darkened hallways strewn with debris, and the excitement of being a part of a team of people helping people,” said Tommaney, the principal instructor for the program in a coalition of instructors from BCPD, Environmental Health and Safety, Eagle EMS and BC Counseling Services.

Matthew DiOrio, A&S ’14, who is involved in Eagle EMS and also took the C-CERT class, noted that the course went beyond educating about the physical needs during and after a crisis. In addition to training students on basic life support skills as well as triage and fire suppression techniques, the course also covered the psychological aspects with regard to a disaster—how people will behave and act in an emergency response situation.

In the course, DiOrio learned of unique improvisations one could make during an emergency.

“We were using things like rolled newspapers—yes, The Heights—and wrenches to splint broken bones, blankets to put out fires or to cover animals, and even masking tape to secure patients to boards or splinting devices,” DiOrio said.

The C-CERT core curriculum is universal across the United States, allowing students who are involved with C-CERT at BC to later become involved with a CERT program in the community they live in at home. In addition, Tommaney noted, it gives the University a ready-trained resource of people who could help out in an emergency when the rest of BC’s and the surrounding public safety resources are fully engaged.

C-CERT is expected to run another course during the fall semester, according to Tommaney. Their goal is to train approximately 50 people per academic year in the C-CERT program. In the future, the team also plans on reaching out to surrounding CERT programs in the communities of Boston and Brookline as well as MIT and Tufts for joint training and drills.

Kevin Wickersham, A&S ’13, vice president of Eagle EMS, and an employee of BC’s Office of Emergency Management, noted that the course focuses on proper individual preparation for emergencies with the philosophy that it is impossible to assist others if you are not properly prepared to help yourself through the early stages of an emergency.

C-CERT offers a unique course for all members of the BC community to learn useful, every-day skills that are also pertinent to saving lives and dealing with an emergency situation. The C-CERT course is practical—one will not always be equipped with the proper resources to handle a situation, but the course teaches that there are easy and creative ways to compensate for this.

Wickersham recognizes the connection between the goals of Eagle EMS and the C-CERT course. Eagle EMS upholds the importance of emergency preparedness, including it as part of its mission. Although already offering standby services during events on campus and other campus response services, Eagle EMS is always looking to expand.

 “Eagle EMS is constantly engaged in conversations with administrators to determine what we can do to best cater to the needs of University and serve as a resource in case of any kind of emergency situation that affects the campus and/or the local area,” Wickersham said.

Eagle EMS currently maintains two Disaster Response Teams of 12 EMTs each. According to Wickersham, the teams were created to address the concern that in the event of a major emergency, there may not be enough available resources to deal with the aftermath of the incident.

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