Emergency Response Team Puts Aid First on Campus

Posted: December 22, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

For several years, programs like Virginia Corps, which links citizens to a wide variety of volunteer efforts, have been essential in helping people make a difference in their community. Now at George Mason, a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is in the process of forming to provide another level of volunteer help in case of a crisis.

CERT teams began on the West Coast, in parts of California where earthquakes, flooding, brush fires, and other natural disasters kept local fire departments and emergency dispatch teams unable to respond quickly enough to all areas of the community that needed them. Neighborhoods, homeowners associations, and other community groups decided that they needed to form their own emergency teams to provide basic care and service when needed.

The CERT team concept spread quickly across the country, and many groups have formed in Virginia. Virginia Military Institute is one university that has introduced CERT team training on its campus.

The George Mason team would be trained to help the campus in case of an area-wide emergency that delayed the external emergency response teams from responding. Training for this team would include such tasks as first aid, fire extinguisher operation, utility control, and survivor stress management. Other responsibilities of the team are still in development, but may include working with the University Police to provide extra security for major campus events such as Mason Day or commencement.

“After September 11, many people wanted to do something to get involved in the community,” says Jay Callan, coordinator of the CERT team training. “This is a great way to do that.”

Although the team is still forming, Callan says 16 individuals have already expressed an interest. “These are amazingly experienced people,” he says. “The skill level is incredible. We have people with EMT training, retired nurses, and experienced climbers and cavers. However, anyone with a strong desire to volunteer is welcome to join us, no matter what their background.”

Training consists of two or three hours, one night a week for approximately six to eight weeks. After completing the training and becoming certified by the State of Virginia and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the team will also attend scheduled drills one weekend afternoon each month. “In return, volunteers will gain skills that will be invaluable to their families, neighborhoods, and the university in times of major emergency,” says Callan.

For more information about the team, contact Callan at (703) 993-2473 or jcallan@gmu.edu.

Write to at