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Monday, September 25, 2023


Disaster simulation keeps campus safe


In the final Campus Emergency Response Team training simulation, student volunteers underwent makeovers to look injured as CERT members “rescued” them. | Courtesy of Richard Zagrzecki

Complete with victims painted in fake blood and a search and rescue mission, the Emergency Management Department held a disaster simulation Friday afternoon at the Energy Research Park to train CERT members on how to address a potential emergency situation.

CERT training, which began in 2011 to prepare members of the University community for a potential campus emergency, is part of a national initiative and sponsored by the city of Houston and Harris County.

“The CERT training culminates with the final exercise. The purpose of this exercise is to test the CERT members’ new skills and to give the team an opportunity to practice in an environment similar to a real-world emergency,” said Emergency Management Specialist Kelly Boysen. “We utilize past graduates of the CERT program, who volunteer as our disaster victims. These volunteers get made over by a moulage artist who uses makeup, props and fake blood to make the injuries look real. The CERT team then practices their search and rescue skills, extinguishes small fires, triages and treats the ‘victims’ during the course of the drill.”

Throughout the course, CERT members are trained in a variety of aspects including fire suppression, terrorism awareness, search and rescue, transport and medical operations. On the last day of class, a disaster scenario is given in which CERT members have to practice organizing their team, putting out fires with extinguishers, rescuing victims from the scene, determining the severity of victims’ injuries and providing treatment.

CERT Coordinator Homero Ponce-Lopez, who has taught fire safety, search and rescue and first aid EMS 1 and EMS 2 classes, now serves as the liaison between UH and Houston.

“This is a training everyone should have, because in case we ever have a catastrophic event in Houston, there are not firefighters to respond to all the emergencies,” Ponce-Lopez said. “If you have members of the community trained in basic EMS first aid, fire and rescue, they will be able to help their families and their neighbors. It will help tremendously with the workload of the Houston Fire Department.”

This year, 18 participants graduated and received their CERT Completion Certificate. UH Social Media Coordinator Kimberly Davis was among them.

“It was something different that I’ve never done before. I was really excited to learn how to do these skills. I think it’s really important for staff members and students around the campus to be prepared if there’s a disaster situation, especially in Houston, since we are vulnerable to hurricanes and we’re a large city,” Davis said. “I personally wanted to do this, because as running the social media for UH, I’m kind of one of the first contacts. I’m putting the word out there so I want to do the most that I can for my university.”

Petroleum engineering junior Aubrey Milliron said the disaster drill left a lasting impression.

“It was fun all the way throughout. It was all very informative; we got to apply real life situations.”

The eight-week course is offered free of charge to UH faculty, staff and students during the fall and spring semesters and meets once a week for three hours. Instructors include members of the UH Fire Marshal’s office, the Houston Fire Department and the Houston Police Department. For details on future CERT classes, contact Boysen at [email protected].

[email protected]

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