By Selwyn Harris
In the wake of major disasters, the need for a prompt response from medical, fire, and law enforcement may mean the difference between life and death.
As such, Hafen Elementary School was the venue for a program called the Community Emergency Response Team CERT last week.
The program educates individuals on disaster preparedness.
City of Las Vegas Emergency Management Instructor Page Spencer said the course covers actions that participants and their families can take before, during, and after a disaster.
“It is a nationwide program that is under the Department of Homeland Security DHS and funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA . It is all done with grant money and what we teach them is how to respond to things that can happen in their local area like disasters. This is a community-based program,” she said.
Spencer said the course description covers nine different scenarios ranging from calamitous fires, floods, earthquakes, and even terrorist threats.
“We teach them how to do fire suppression, some medical operations which are mostly field med. We teach them how to perform search and rescues and some things about disaster psychology, terrorism and things of that nature. Even though we are at a school today, it’s the same program that we give to the average citizen and everybody can get use out of this. Eighty percent of the people who take this program take it for their own personal use. If something does happen and they can handle themselves, their family, parts of their neighborhood, and possibly parts of their workplace, they have expanded our resources and if we do have a disaster, we are never going to have enough professional help,” she cautioned.
Spencer also mentioned another aspect of the training program, which she referred to as “See Something, Say Something.”
“That means if you see something suspicious please call it in because we would rather be called out 10 times unnecessarily than the one time in which we were needed,” she said.
Roughly 25 to 30 people attended the program at Hafen, which were mainly teachers and administrators.
Principal Todd Nelson said the program is invaluable especially as it relates to a school setting.
“It went really well. It was training that our safety committee from last year when we were reviewing the safety of our school and so forth. As we were evaluating it, the idea of a community emergency response team was brought up and having gone through that training in California, we decided to use that resource to train teachers to really strive to provide a safe environment for our students. The program is very thorough in its training and for us to have that peace of mind and for parents to have that peace of mind that if disaster strikes we can be prepared as best as we can. CERT is tapped into the community and not just for schools. If an emergency did arise schools can be used as a resource as well,” he said.
Nelson also said that Hafen’s training course was a pilot program which may involve other schools within the southern region of the Nye County School District.
“We did have health aides from other schools attend the training program. It is not required. Our safety committee meets once a month to evaluate the safety of our school. We cover things from bullying to anything that can be deemed unsafe on the campus,” he said.
The principal did say that even though he has taken the course before, he did learn a few new skills from the course.
“I lived in California which is earthquake prone. This area, while not experiencing a lot of earthquakes, I learned that the number one possible disaster would be floods because we live in what is known as a 100-year flood zone,” he said.
Following last week’s program Nelson said he heard many positive comments from participants who also received a certificate of completion from the course.
“I have heard nothing but good things thus far. We will have another day of training in March. There is a lot to cover here at Hafen from safety to reading, writing, math, and other basics that we have to cover as well. It was a very extensive all day training session that we went through. It is the type of training that you hope you never have to use in life but if it does come up you are glad that you do have that training to kick in,” Nelson said.