Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oklahoma State Sig Eps CERT Certified

Students prepared for emergencies

Photo by Kyle Buthod

Sigma Phi Epsilon is the first fraternity in the nation to be certified as Campus-Community Emergency Response Team. Training included how to manage fires, rescue victims and administer medical care during the Campus-Community Emergency Response Team.

Although April’s wildfires destroyed his friend’s house, they brought his response training closer to home.

John Dougherty, a mechanical and aerospace engineering freshman, said he would have normally overreacted — but that day was different.

Dougherty had just completed his Community Emergency Response Team certification training earlier this month.

Dougherty is one of 16 men from Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity that are CERT certified.

Physical Plant employees and Lee Bird, vice president of student affairs and faculty adviser, have been training individuals on campus for four or five years, Bird said.

CERT, which started in California, is part of homeland security, said Kirk Mittlestet, the emergency management director for the city of Stillwater.

“We started a course several years ago teaching people how to take care of themselves and then their neighbors,” Mittlestet said.

Bird said the free classes, which are held on campus once or twice a year, are available to anyone — community members, students, faculty and staff.

OSU is one of only three or four colleges in America that offer CERT training, but other campuses are starting to pick it up, Bird said.

Bird said the team is unique because it’s the first “intact group” that has been trained on OSU’s campus.

Chris Copeland, vice president of communications for SigEp and an accounting freshman, said Bird encouraged the members of SigEp to complete the training.

“It was a great opportunity for us to be the first fraternity in the nation,” Copeland said.

Copeland said he was originally interested in the idea because he already knew some emergency techniques like CPR but the most exciting things he learned were totally new to him.

“I never got to put out a fire with a fire extinguisher before,” he said. “That was really cool.”

Dougherty, the CERT coordinator for SigEp, said he used the excitement factor to get members interested in the event.

“We publicized the really cool aspects that you’ve always wanted to do as a kid — the really heroic stuff,” Dougherty said.

Despite its marketing, CERT certification training was not all fun and excitement.

During fire training, the team had to work to recover victims from a burning house.

“We went into a building that was smoke filled,” Copeland said. “It was impossible to see.”

Copeland said he feels confident that the training taught the group valuable skills that could help the community in an emergency.

One of the most important lessons the group learned is when to help and when it is safer not to help.

“It’s to teach people how big of a fire is too big to put out with a fire extinguisher,” Bird said.

Bird, who was an emergency medical technician for 14 years, said CERT training is different from work as an EMT. CERT is designed to be a community-based response — “when citizens need to help out because police, et cetera are overwhelmed,” Bird said.

In order to help in a disaster, CERT response teams are organized into three different units — a commercial unit, a medical unit and a search and rescue unit.

Not only do trainees have to commit to spending several hours reading and practicing in the classroom, but they are also making a commitment to their community to help keep it safe.

Mittlestet said although SigEp’s certification is good, the most important thing is that they carry their training forward, “take their certification card” into their new community.

Dougherty said that he and Copeland are confident their group can help neighbors or friends in need.

“We are capable of going into a disaster situation, that we could go in and help someone and maybe save their life,” Dougherty said.

This story was published April 21st, 2009 under News. Permalink.

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