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Students To Learn Crisis Management Skills During National Preparedness Month

Packing an emergency supply kit, using a fire extinguisher, and learning CPR: these are the skills Boston College’s Office of Emergency Management hopes students will learn in September, during National Preparedness Month.

National Preparedness Month is a concept that was created by the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration after Sept. 11, 2001. The purpose of the month is to educate Americans on how to prepare for a crisis or emergency that may affect them, according to John Tommaney, the director of emergency management and preparedness at BC.

The Office of Emergency Management will hold events this year to educate the student population on how to deal with an emergency.

Healthapalooza is an event in which students will be able to learn how to respond in case of a crisis situation. It will take place on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m. at O’Neill Plaza. The event is a joint effort by the Office of Health Promotions, the Office of Emergency Management, the Boston College Police Department, and several other offices across campus. Over 1,000 students participated in Healthapalooza last year, according to Tommaney.

“We use it as an opportunity to interact with the campus community to talk about the importance of an emergency kit and being prepared for an emergency,” Tommaney said.

The event will be interactive, as it will feature a disaster obstacle course. Two students will compete in a course that will include packing an emergency kit, using a fire extinguisher, and responding to an earthquake. In under two minutes, students will be able to learn basic skills in dealing with an emergency situation.

“It’s designed to be fun, but it is also a learning opportunity,” Tommaney said.

Twenty offices across campus will hold activities during a three-hour window that day. For example, BCPD will teach students crime-prevention skills, health coaches will give students tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle, and CPR training will be available.

The Office of Emergency Management will also host Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT) trainings this fall.

CERT is a national training program that is held across the country. The program is designed to teach people how to be part of an organized response in a crisis. Participants are taught disaster skills, including psychological first aid, disaster field first aid, basic fire suppression, search and rescue, and how to organize a response team.

Roughly 200 people have been trained in the program over the last six years, according to Tommaney.

The program is open to students, faculty, and staff. Training sessions will be held Tuesday nights during October and November.

“I call it creating a culture of preparedness. The idea behind that is knowing the hazards and knowing how we communicate with students in a crisis situation.”

— John Tommaney, the director of emergency management and preparedness at BC

“It doesn’t cost anything to participate and people can walk away with a lot of great information on what to do during a crisis,” Tommaney said. “These skills are transferable—participants can go link up with a CERT team in a different country and be involved.”

BC has been participating in National Preparedness Month for the last eight years, and the Office of Emergency Management has held a few different programs to educate students. There are different steps students should take to prepare for an emergency, according to Tommaney. The first step is knowing what kind of emergency could happen in the Boston area.

Late summer falls during hurricane season, and the Office of Emergency Management has been monitoring the weather in the tropics closely. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and tropical storm Irene in 2011 were two major weather events that shaped how BC will respond to extreme weather, Tommaney said.

Emergency events are not limited to just weather, according to Tommaney. Fire, power outages, outbreak of disease, and active shooter situations are emergencies that could potentially affect campus. The Boston Marathon attack in 2013 is an example of the importance of having an emergency plan set, he said.

“I call it creating a culture of preparedness,” Tommaney said. “The idea behind that is knowing the hazards and knowing how we communicate with students in a crisis situation.”

Students can download the In Case of Crisis mobile application, an app that notifies students during an emergency and provides them preparedness procedures and emergency contact information.

At the end of the month, the Office of Emergency Management will conduct a full test of its emergency notification system.

Tommaney also stresses the importance of creating an emergency plan with friends and family. In case of emergency, it is important for students to be in contact with their families, he said.

As part of the month, students can prepare an emergency supply kit. The kit should include a bottle of water, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a change of clothes, and some basic food supplies, according to Tommaney. The supplies in the kit should help students during the first 24 hours of an emergency.

Getting involved is another way students can be prepared for an emergency, Tommaney said.

Students can become a member of the American Red Cross or BC Emergency Medical Service.

“Knowing what hazards can potentially happen and what you, as an individual, would do in that situation is half the battle,” Tommaney said.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Senior Staff

September 18, 2016