When disasters strike, our first responders are in high demand; but with the help of schools like the University of Washington-Bothell (UW-Bothell) and Cascadia College, first responders are rarely in short supply. Located in Bothell, Washington, UW-Bothell shares a campus with Cascadia College, making up the UW-Bothell/Cascadia College Campus Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). The partnership between these two schools makes the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin look like amateurs! Any time a critical incident occurs on the schools’ campus, the UW-Bothell/Cascadia College Campus CERT is activated. Faculty, staff, and students come together from both schools to provide emergency services in times of crisis to protect the health, safety, and well-being of individuals on and off campus. “Teamwork is one of the biggest highlights that our…members get from being a part of CERT. We have students, staff and faculty working side by side,” says Darren Branum, UW-Bothell Emergency Preparedness Manager.
FEMA spoke with Mr. Branum and he shared his excitement and passion for the UW-Bothell/Cascadia College Campus CERT. From the beginning, starting and maintaining the Campus CERT program has been a labor of love for Darren. “Five years ago, my boss and I, along with the City of Bothell Fire Chief, were in a meeting discussing emergency preparedness for the campus. The Chief explained that his department resources would be tied up in the event of a large event such as an earthquake. This would leave our campus to fend for itself. My boss asked ‘what do we do’ to mitigate this issue? I told her that we needed to create a CERT program for the campus. After [reviewing] a brief white paper with the risk benefits and cost analysis, she approved money to jump start the program. Five years later we have trained over 100 students, staff and faculty. The team is ready to respond to any incident on campus.”
Darren will be the first to admit, it was slow going. The program first started with mostly faculty and staff, but in the past year and a half, he has seen more students sign up and join the Campus CERT. One attribute that makes this program unique and popular among students is that UW-Bothell offers CERT training during the school year and awards college credits to the students. It took UW-Bothell two years to pursue, and Darren is seeing success from these efforts. “UW Bothell students can actually get class credit for taking CERT now. So far in the last two quarters, I have had 22 students receive class credit for CERT.”
The training is open to new and existing Campus CERT members as a refresher course. The most popular UW-Bothell CERT course offerings are fire response, search and rescue, and disaster medical operations. Not only is the UW-Bothell/Cascadia College Campus CERT program creating a great opportunity for existing members to meet the new members, but the program is also providing the new generation of emergency responders a solid foundation to build on.
UW-Bothell/Cascadia College has been able to offer a CERT program that provides the real-life tools needed to help people during an emergency or a disaster. This is due to Darren partnering with various programs and entities on campus for the team to support, such as the school’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Branum notes, “Several CERT members have also taken [Incident Command System (ICS)] training to assist in the EOC until EOC responders arrive. They also act as runners, note takers and assist in general EOC functions. UW Bothell / Cascadia College CERT members also staff first aid teams for campus events such as the annual Husky 5K run and STEM festival.”
UW-Bothell/Cascadia College and the members of their Emergency Preparedness team have worked proactively to create a dynamic and exciting program for its students, faculty, and staff. FEMA encourages colleges and universities across the country to create CERT programs tailored to the needs of their campuses and surrounding communities.
If you are interested in creating or strengthening the CERT program at your college or university, consider these tips:
1. Offer ICS training in addition to CERT training to enhance your Campus CERT program,
2. Work with your college or university to offer credits to students for completing CERT and ICS training, and
3. Create an environment that allows students to become active in the campus community.
If you would like to know more about establishing a Campus CERT at your academic institution, or would like to learn more about CERT in general, please visit www.ready.gov/cert or email us at FEMAemail@example.com.
This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.