Teen teams train to respond to community emergencies and disasters
For the 2017-2018 school year, the Harris County Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program will consist of 118 teachers from 52 high schools in 24 area school districts. Since its inception 2004, Teen CERT has consistently grown each year to include more high schools and students.
The Teen CERT concept was created to address preparedness and response capabilities from within high schools. While many schools have taken measures to provide for site security analysis and equipment, more effort is needed to train staff and students in school security and emergency response procedures, and to involve youth in the country’s overall emergency preparedness and response plans. Teen CERT aims to train students in emergency preparedness and basic response to ensure that they have the skills needed to protect themselves, and assist others, in the event of an emergency.
“I think a strength of the program is having the ability to get people involved from a variety of backgrounds and age groups to come together and work in order to help the community and relieve some of the stresses that are placed on first responders during emergency situations. Being in the high school setting encourages younger students to see the value in helping others on all different levels of the government as well as medical care providers. I know personally I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to get my students the chance to help out the community they live starting at such as young age” said Robin Guimbellot, a Health Science Technology Teacher of La Porte High School.
Teen CERTs can support a school’s emergency operations plan and assist emergency services personnel, thus providing valuable surge capacity to local first responders when needed. In addition, students are likely to take home lessons learned in the classroom, spreading the preparedness message to their families.
The teaching and the training of our youth will have a tremendous impact on how well we mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from technical and natural disasters both today and in the years to come.
The training is typically between 20-30 hours of curriculum aligned with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for math, English/language arts, social studies, science, and technology applications. Skills from the curriculum include topics such as: Fire Suppression, Triage, Disaster Medical Operations, Light Search and Rescue, Disaster Psychology, CERT Organization, and Terrorism Awareness. Schools may incorporate Teen CERT into the JROTC, Health Science Technology, Law Enforcement / Criminal Justice or other academic programs or clubs. If a school wants to have a campus-based training program, the sponsor will be the primary instructor. The Harris County Citizen Corps supports the Teen CERT training with manuals, basic medical training supplies and backpacks loaded with emergency supplies.
Teen CERTs often participate in community service events. In 2017, Teen CERTs assisted in supporting the BP MS-150 Bicycle Ride and in the Houston Extreme Weather Ready Expo.
Each year, schools are invited to participate in a Final Drill to put their Teen CERT Skills to practical application. Last school year, nearly 1,800 students attended the Final Drill.
For more information about Teen CERT, contact Earl Smith, Teen CERT Coordinator with the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at (713)274-1748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students extinguish a fire at the Teen CERT Final Drill held at the Pasadena Fire Training Field.