Emergency Response Team Makes Its Mark at Mason

Posted: September 14, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Trained by the State of Virginia and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members aren’t afraid to get down and dirty. At disaster simulations at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy, they pull victims from burning buildings and crashed cars. They learn how to evacuate a structure quickly, how to evaluate an emergency situation, and how to communicate with other team members and to the community.

Made up of former emergency management technicians, ski patrollers, nurses, students, and faculty members, the George Mason CERT is a strong force on the Fairfax Campus. The team was developed about one year ago to allow faculty, staff, and students a greater role in the safety and security of the university. So far, 11 people have completed their CERT training after a final daylong exercise at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy earlier this year.

CERT exercise
CERT members complete a training exercise with other emergency personnel.

“It has been a pleasure to watch the CERT program at George Mason grow from an idea into reality,” says Keith Bushey, vice president and chief safety officer. “I am especially impressed by the caliber and dedication of the first group of volunteers. These individuals represent a cross-section of the Fairfax Campus community and contribute a wide range of experience and talents to the group.”

The Mason CERT program is the only one of its kind in the state university system. Members meet each month to discuss how to improve their skills and equipment and how they fit into the university environment. They have also elected officers and created a web site.

One of CERT’s latest projects has been to conduct in-depth tours of every building on campus to become familiar with the layout and structure. The group has also been a presence at various activities and events at George Mason such as Mason Day, where team members staffed the first aid station and the Fairfax City Mobile command post. CERT also participates in the University Emergency Operations Center drills and simulations. The team hopes to eventually recruit members from the Prince William and Arlington Campuses so as to better assist the university’s student population of more than 28,000 and more than 4,000 faculty and staff.

Beyond the university community, CERT is committed to helping Fairfax City create its own CERT program. If a team is established in Fairfax, the Mason team hopes to partner with it and help with training and development. “There is definitely a potential for partnership,” says Jay Callan, emergency plans officer at George Mason. “It will strengthen the bond between George Mason and Fairfax City.”

“CERT interested me because it gave me an opportunity to support the community I’m involved in,” says Doris Rollins, CERT leader and manager, telecommunications administration in ITU. “The simulations we participate in and the courses we take help us to work as a team. We learn to understand our roles as CERT members and how our actions impact other team members if we don’t follow the guidelines we’ve established.”

On September 25, from noon to 5 p.m. in Lot C, CERT members will recruit for the team and hand out safety information at University Safety Day. Sponsored by the University Police Department and the Safety Office, the day’s activities will provide advice, information, and entertainment to members of the university community.

Faculty, staff, or students who are interested in joining the team can take a new training course that meets once a week for nine weeks beginning in October. For those who would like a firsthand look at what the team is about, volunteers are needed to be “victims” for CERT’s next simulation exercise on October 16. For more information, contact Jay Callan at jcallan@gmu.edu or Doris Rollins at 703-993-3470 or drollins@gmu.edu.

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