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ULM first university in La. to train Campus Certified Emergency Response Team volunteers

MONROE, LA – “It’s not if something happens here; it’s when something happens.”

That is how Meghan Olinger, Director of Student Advocacy and Accountability, summed up why more than 50 University of Louisiana Monroe faculty and staff volunteered for two days of intense training on assisting law enforcement, first responders, and government officials in the wake of a disaster.

ULM is the first and only university in Louisiana to provide the Campus Community Emergency Response Team Program. FEMA started CERT in 1986, and more than 600,000 have completed the training. The CERT training at ULM was geared for emergencies on campus but can be used when needed in the community. The training was at Bayou Pointe Event Center, Dec. 13-14.

The workshops were packed with hands-on exercises for basic disaster response skills. Topics included medical triage such as correctly applying a tourniquet and performing chest compressions, psychological effects of trauma on both victims and responders, light search and rescue, fire safety, and Avoid, Deny, Defend training for active killer situations.

CERT coordinators at ULM are Mark Johnson, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, University Police Department Training Director and CERT trainer, and Olinger.

Johnson opened the training by announcing that in a disaster, communities must be prepared to manage the situation for at least 120 hours until outside help arrives. He reminded the volunteers of the current tragedy still unfolding from tornadoes in Kentucky and Tennessee, and Northeast Louisiana’s volatile weather.

“Critical incidents, whether natural or manmade, occur often in our society, and the key to successfully navigating these events with minimal loss is through effective pre-emergency planning. CERT is now part of the ULM Emergency Response Plan to assist us maintain the best level of preparation possible for ULM,” Johnson said.

CERT trainers and presenters were local and regional experts who stressed the importance of people taking care of themselves so they can help take care of others.

“The ULM Police Department continues to research and implement the best practices that provide safety and security to the ULM campus. CERT offers the basic knowledge and skills so ULM CERT team members can be effective support to our full-time, professional first responders who may be overwhelmed in times of a critical incident,” Johnson said.

CERT presenters included: Tracy Hilburn, Governor’s Office Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) for Region 8; Shannon Futch, Union Parish Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and CERT Trainer; Justin Nowlin, Acadian Ambulance Service, and Emergency Response Network Trainer; Chief Greg Hill, Monroe Fire Department Training Director and Search & Rescue Instructor; Mkay Bonner, Ph.D., Licensed Industrial and Organization Psychologist, ULM Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Psychology, and CERT trainer; Lt. Kent and Dr. Johnson.

“Our campus community is so caring and helpful. When disaster strikes, they are ready and willing to serve others. Now, our new Campus CERT team will have additional and specific training so they will be even more prepared to help in times of need,” said Bonner. “We are looking forward to continuing the training in the spring semester for new CERT members and those wanting to become part of the team. We are truly blessed to be part of such a wonderful campus community of faculty, staff, and students.”

Another Campus CERT training is tentatively planned for April at ULM.