La Porte High School students were among the participants from 17 area school districts who joined in a Feb. 18 final exam drill as part of the Teen Community Emergency Response Team (Teen CERT).
The Harris County Department of Education's (HCDE) Center for Safe and Secure Schools coordinates the Teen CERT program, a nationally recognized Harris County Citizens Corps Initiative. Through the challenging, team-building curriculum, students acquire skills needed to be first responders during an emergency.
La Porte's participants are part of the high school's JROTC program, through which the Teen CERT curriculum is taught to all 117 students as part of the standard leadership training. During the training, they learn to put out fires, triage accident victims, use search-and-rescue tactics and provide disaster relief.
Thirty-four top-performing students were chosen to participate in the drill and became certified when the group "passed with flying colors," said Captain Tony Hernandez, director of the LPHS JROTC program.
Hernandez explained that he and SFC Joe Glennan, assistant director, felt the need to incorporate TeenCERT into the JROTC program after Hurricane Ike struck the La Porte area. Then, many of their LPHS students served as volunteers at point of distribution (POD) sites but would have liked to have been even more involved in the disaster relief efforts.
With the Teen CERT training, the students will be able to provide support to the adult relief operations teams in the event of an emergency. Students acquired skills ranging from turning off a water or gas valve to applying first aid and assisting in jacking up a building during a rescue effort.
HCDE provides the 30-hour training at the schools, and the program culminates with the final drill, which tests student abilities in emergency response, at the Harris County Fire and Sheriff's Academy in Humble.
"The key to this is what to do after the event," Hernandez said, noting that the support of LPHS principal Dr. Joanne Kolius and school administration was instrumental in the success of the students.
LPHS participants included Josh Stitt, Cassandra Hubbell, Bryan Dodson, Luis Garcia, Greg Johnson, Robert Bunden, Daniel Ayers, Brandon Lane, Zach Johnson, Jose Chapa, Caleb Waller, Irene Berrones, Fide Martinez, Rachel Ward, Jacob Porier, John Pounders, Megan Gill, Dustin Olive, Nick Calvert, Colby Sanderson, Dustin Haviland, Emmanuel Garcia, Chris Ballard, Cody Kickertz, Scott Dodson, Megan Miller, Rachael Ward, Brian Graham, Cody McKay, Andria McClennen, Aaron Reitenour, Dakota Brown, Tanner Reynolds and Kendall Parsons.
"It was just great to see our students analyzing problems critically and using methods to come up with a solution," Hernandez said. "They absorbed the material well and used everything they learned in the classroom during the Teen CERT final exercise."
Hernandez added that the skills acquired by the participants will also help to give them a competitive edge as they apply for jobs in emergency medical services, law enforcement, fire protection, the petrochemical industry, and more.
"Teen CERT in Harris County is considered a national training model," said John Wilson of HCDE's Center for Safe and Secure Schools. "We have trained over 2,400 students in community emergency response. By training, equipping and integrating a Teen CERT program, schools can meet the obligation they made in the Texas School Safety Center emergency operations plan."
In addition to La Porte, districts participating this year included Conroe, Huffman, Galena Park, Aldine, Spring Branch, Columbus, Houston, Lamar, Deer Park, Friendswood, North Forest, Katy, Crosby, Cypress-Fairbanks, Spring and Tomball. Around 1,005 students participated in the Teen CERT classes.
This year, Teen CERT was funded by United Way of Greater Houston Community Building Grant and the Harris County Citizens Corps. Other contributors include Walmart and Eastern Michigan State University. Funding is being sought for 2011-2012.