One of the nearly 40 clubs offered to Severn students in the Upper School is the Severn Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
CERT is a nationally recognized program, the purpose of which is to educate volunteers about disaster preparedness, and to train citizens to respond in situations where emergency services may be unable to respond quickly, such as a hurricane, major storm or coastal flooding.
One of the signature components of CERT is the Basic Training course – a FEMA course with a nationally recognized certification -- which teaches members what to do before, during and after the hazards that their communities may face. The training covers organizational principles of incident command, medical first aid, fire prevention and awareness, light search and rescue, terrorism, and the psychology of disaster response.
Offered over a two-week period, the course includes 20 total hours of training, with the final session culminating with a full-scale disaster simulation that provides students with the opportunity to put the life-saving skills they learned in class to the test. This final disruptive event is staged at the Anne Arundel County Fire Training Academy, where all AA Co. fire companies and EMS train, and even includes professional “survivors” – volunteers who play the roles of people in need of assistance in the wake of the simulated disaster.
In partnership with Anne Arundel—Annapolis CERT, the Severn CERT team has made this course available to a limited number of Severn students in past years. However, circumstances this spring opened up additional spots, allowing for an all-Severn class of participants. The interest from students was high, and a total of 17 Severn students recently completed the required 20 hours of training and are now certified in CERT-Basic.
During the final training session, students worked hands-on the entire time, rotating through a triage exercise, fighting a simulated fire with the US Coast Guard firefighting team, and completing a cribbing exercise where they used physics to free a victim trapped under a crushing load.
The final component was the disaster simulation, where students were required to search the facilities for survivors, provide immediate first aid, triage the scene and evacuate and even comfort survivors. Several of those survivors had moulage applied to simulate injuries, further increasing the realism of the event. A proctor was assigned to each team and evaluated the actions of the team members throughout the drill. While the students were not permitted to ask questions of the proctor, the proctor could offer prompts as needed.
The disaster simulation – a hurricane that struck Anne Arundel County – lasted approximately 45 minutes and was immediately followed by a Hot Wash, where both the proctors and volunteer survivors offered feedback to the three teams on what they did well as well as where they saw opportunity for improvement. Overall, the Severn students got positive feedback on their level of investment in the drill and their strong communication, for remembering small details like noting the time that a team enters a building to clear it, and in one specific example, the way a student interacted and built trust with a survivor, coaxing them to safety.
“The real value of the CERT Basic training is that students learn real-world skills that can help them to be of service to others in a crisis,” said Damian Baraty, who serves as Advisor to the Severn CERT Club, in addition to his faculty role in both the Math and Science Departments at the school. “They are basically learning how they can do the greatest good for the great number of people.”
At the conclusion of the Hot Wash, each student was presented with a CERT Basic certificate, in recognition of their successful completion of the course.
Check out pictures from CERT-Basic Training here