Throughout the month of June, the UCA faculty and staff were given the opportunity to attend free Community Emergency Response Training classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

CERT is a course that teaches disaster preparedness and response for civilians so that they know what to do if first responders are overwhelmed and cannot immediately reach the scene of a disaster. Upon completion, the attendants who were present at every class received official CERT Certification through FEMA.

While some previous classes of the emergency response nature have seen little turnout because of the limited time during the school, the summer course had a nearly, if not a completely full class of 24. Class topics included preparedness for potential local disasters such as tornado threats and minor earthquakes as well as fire safety and small fire extinguishment. Other classes taught about terrorism and disaster psychology, utility control and disaster medical treatment using ordinary available resources.

Each building on campus has a building emergency plan with procedures and instructions for what to do in the event of a disaster. All UCA’s staff are trained to follow that plan. Attendees of this class learned techniques that take them a step above just memorizing the building emergency plan. Along with the extra knowledge, they were also given a university-owned CERT bag to keep in their car, office, or classroom, filled with materials like a helmet, safety goggles, flashlights, work gloves and other things.

“Teaching the CERT skills are giving our staff and faculty the ability to help students after the emergency has occurred,” UCAPD Emergency Management Coordinator Tyler Lachowski said.

Lachowski taught part of the course along with the local fire department and bomb squad. Other teachers included Annette Gartment, Clinical Instructor I from the UCA nursing program, and Nelson Landers, Environmental Health and Safety manager at the UCA Physical Plant. 

Most classes took place at UCA Police Outreach next to the Purchasing Office off College Avenue.

While this is the first time for faculty and staff to have the training, those working in residence halls had previously completed the course and have CERT bags.

On June 27, the last day of the course, the attendees participated in a disaster simulation which took place at the underground area that used to belong to Arkansas Department of Emergency Management next to old local fire department station 6. At one point, they were told to go inside the dark area and find victims, which were played by people who were not currently enrolled in the CERT course.

“To practice their search and rescue portion, they go in there as a team and learn how to work together as a team to go and get those people out of that situation,” Lachowski said.

The teams would also have to practice triaging and treating the victims they “rescued.” “We’ll get our victims and we’ll put moulage on them to make it look like they have injuries,” Lachowski said.

UCA alumna Hannah Hanshaw works in the education and outreach department in Torreyson Library attended the event with a few other library staff members. She said during the simulation she was the designated documenter and kept track of how many victims there were and how badly each was injured.

“Even though the victims were acting, it was still really hard for me to stay focused on documenting when there were people screaming for help all around,” Hanshaw said. “I just tried to stay focused on my task because in a real disaster, any and all information we can gather before the first responders make it to the scene can be immensely helpful.”

Lachowski said that disasters are few and far between and he’d like to come up with things for the CERT team to do in the meantime to keep up their skills. Along with that, he also said he wants to bring the class back in the future for even more people to receive the training.

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