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ULM professor awarded for emergency preparedness

The Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association awarded Dr. Mark Johnson the Leadership Award for Emergency Preparedness at its conference on May 17 in Lake Charles. Johnson is a University of Louisiana Monroe assistant professor of criminal justice and the training director of the ULM Police Department.

Johnson first led Campus Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in December 2021 after a delayed launch of the program due to the pandemic. ULM was the first university in the state of Louisiana to initiate the Campus CERT training. The demand of staff and faculty who wished to take the training was so high, Johnson scheduled a second Campus CERT session in April. In total, he taught 88 volunteers.

"People at ULM want to be prepared to help our community when things hit, like floods and tornadoes. Our people always resoundingly step up to the plate and are there to help," he said. "By creating the Campus CERT program, instead of people just showing up, now we have people who have been certified and trained to show up."

Campus CERT is funded by FEMA and managed through the Lieutenant Governor's office and Volunteer Louisiana. The purpose is to train civilians to assist and lead their community during emergencies until outside help arrives. The volunteers learned medical triage, team organization, fire safety, and active shooter. Avoid-Deny-Defend situational techniques. The ULM training was so successful, Johnson introduced Campus CERT to other universities in the UL System.

Volunteer Louisiana nominated Johnson for the award at the LEPA meeting, where Governor John Bel Edwards and Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser were the featured speakers. Multiple emergency preparedness groups attend, including the Department of Homeland Security, municipal fire departments, and chapters of the American Red Cross.

"No matter the emergency, we're going to have a safe campus. We're going to have people ready. We're going to make it happen," he said. "I accepted this award on behalf of the 88 people at ULM. This is the result of their efforts of stepping up to take care of our community and university."

During local and state-wide disasters, ULM often serves as a shelter site. Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot, disaster services specialist of Volunteer Louisiana, said Johnson and his volunteers will not only serve people on campus but also Louisianans from all walks of life.

"The Campus CERT team is now ready to stand and help the citizens of Louisiana run a shelter, help with light search and rescue, direct traffic, and many other activities during a hurricane or other emergency," she said. "Dr. Johnson's infectious nature surrounding disaster preparedness is making ULM one of the most prepared campuses in the state. His training with creating shelters in the event of a storm will have wide-reaching benefits for all of Louisiana."