EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — March 12, 2008

Campus Community Emergency Response Teams
Spring Break in the Virtual Forum

Scott Preston
CERT Manager, University of Washington


Phillip D. Schertzing, Ph.D.
C-CERT Project Manager, Michigan State University

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. On behalf of Avagene and myself, welcome to Spring Break in the Virtual Forum! This session is dedicated to our college students and the faculty and staff that support them. We hope you brought your virtual suntan lotion today as we are celebrating on a virtual sunny beach! (Pretend.)

Our topic today is "Campus Community Emergency Response Teams" or C-CERT. We are privileged to have two knowledgeable speakers with us today to speak about the UW-CERT at the University of Washington (state) and the C-CERT project at Michigan State University.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today's guests. Scott Preston has worked professionally for the University of Washington since August, 2005. Along with other emergency-related duties, Scott leads a 300+ person Campus Emergency Response Team (UW-CERT). He is responsible for all aspects of the CERT team including recruitment, training, supplies and command during real-world incidents. His other duties include serving as an ICS-instructor, the UW's business continuity manager and as the Planning Section Chief for the UW's Emergency Operation Center.

Dr. Schertzing is the C-CERT Project Manager at Michigan State University (MSU). He joined the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University in July 2002 with a dual appointment as director of the Global Community Security Institute and as an academic specialist/instructor. He coordinates a variety of multidisciplinary emergency management and homeland security-related outreach, training and education activities. He also serves as adjunct faculty for the Michigan Center for Public Health Preparedness at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and teaches U.S. History part-time at Lansing Community College.

Please note that additional biographical info is posted on today's Background Page at http://www.emforum.org/vforum/080312.htm, as well as links to materials we will be discussing.

Welcome to you both and thank you for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to Scott to start us off please.


Scott Preston: Thanks Amy. I am pleased to have this opportunity to share our CERT experience today.

The University of Washington is a community of nearly 70,000 people, and its residents depend on it for livelihood, sustenance, housing, and many other services. Yet it could be severely impacted by the effects of a major earthquake, a prolonged winter storm, a serious hazardous materials spill, or other disaster. At a minimum, services and support from Seattle, King County, or the State will likely be committed elsewhere for up to 3 days or more.

In order to better prepare the campus for such an emergency, the UW Emergency Management supports the establishment of Campus Emergency Response Teams (CERT's) in University buildings. There are teams established in several buildings across campus. Many of these buildings have disaster supplies pre-positioned in them as well. The UW CERT team continues to receive training and participate in disaster drills with other emergency response units from the University and the local community.

The pilot CERT project that was conducted in 2004 and funded from a FEMA Innovative CERT grant, allowed the University to implement the community-based FEMA CERT program in a large academic institution. A number of changes and modifications were necessary to make this program successful in an employer-based setting.

A "best practices" document and training plan were developed to assist other colleges and universities to review when considering establishing their own CERT program. The following are some "frequently asked questions."

Where do you get your funding?

The University of Washington received a FEMA grant under the Disaster Resistant Universities (DRU) program to establish a pilot project for a Campus Emergency Response Team in 2004. The successes of the pilot project lead to additional monies being given to the University to continue to develop the CERT program.

Why is your CERT program for University employees only?

We have found that other campuses that also provide CERT-type training provide that training primarily to staff (not students). Since the average service length of UW staff is 20 years, we made a business decision that this would represent our core group to provide training to when we expand the program this fall.

In addition, UW staff members are covered under additional workplace safety and liability protections that are not extended to members of the student body. Finally, as we learned from the pilot program, all future CERT teams must be comprised of at least 6-8 individuals who work in the same actual building or facility at any one time and have primary responsibility for the operations of that building. Most students move from building to building and cannot be responsible for the actual life safety issues within a single facility.

What is the average size of your training classes?

We've found that 30 CERT trainees are the most we want to have in any one class. Due to the nature of the subjects, a lot of questions are often brought up and we want to have the time to answer questions. Additionally, we value hands-on training for subjects such as fire suppression, urban search and rescue and disaster medical treatment.

How long is your CERT course?

We decided to compress the traditional 9 week, 27 hour course into a 3 day, 24 hour course. This was done primarily to accommodate our staff work schedules. We supplement the training with frequent workshops (monthly) and training opportunities (quarterly). Additionally, we encourage our staff to pursue further training as it's offered from the University and from State and Federal programs, such as FEMA's Professional Development Series.

What is the content of your CERT program?

Generally, we follow FEMA's program in schedule and content, but with some tailoring to address circumstances unique to the University environment. For example, being a research university, we have several areas where hazardous materials are stored. Our Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) portion of our training has been altered to include hazardous chemical considerations for our CERT teams.

Does the UW require CERT participation of its employees?

NO. This would cause a number of HR and legal problems to develop regarding liability for volunteer actions and volunteer protection under the law.

I have received CERT training from another agency. Can I join the UW CERT team?

Absolutely! However, we do require ONE of the following:

1. A copy of your FEMA/EMI CERT graduation certificate.

2. A signed letter on agency letterhead from the agency who trained you.

Either of the above documents will be sufficient for our records to show that you have graduated from an accredited basic CERT program outside of the University of Washington. Graduation certificates from out of state CERT programs are accepted, as long as they meet the basic CERT training requirements as set forth by FEMA. You will be asked to attend additional UW training to introduce you to some of the localized considerations for CERT operations.

The CERT Training Program

Training will touch on 8 subject areas and will provide basic skills needed to assist disaster victims. The courses are free and will take place over a period of only two and half days. The training will finish up with a 4 hour practical exercise designed to put all of the new CERT skills to the test. The areas are:

  • Individual and Family Preparedness
  • Disaster Fire Suppression
  • Disaster Medical Operations - Part I
  • Disaster Medical Operations - Part II
  • Light Urban Search and Rescue Operations
  • C.E.R.T Organization
  • All-Hazards and CERT
  • Disaster Psychology
  • Course Review and Disaster Simulation

CERT Basic Graduation Exercise: The UW CERT Basic graduation exercise is a fully functional scenario that all UW CERT basic trainees participate in. The UW Office of Emergency Management has gone to great lengths to make the exercise as useful and memorable as possible.

It's conducted in a small warehouse area in the UW Surplus, under the UW Police department. Live volunteer victims are used who have been made up with make-up (called moulage) to simulate realistic wounds. The environment is completely dark, so all searching, extraction, triage and initial treatment is done with flashlights.

The environment is cluttered with non-structural debris and hazards. There are low-hanging pipes, dangling wires, simulated fires, simulated HazMat release, simulated holes in the floor and even a remote-controlled rat named Willard (there are over 240,000 lab animals on campus).

Refresher Training: The UW CERT team participates in at least 6 refresher training opportunities, annually. These include drills and review of the basic CERT training modules.

Advanced Training: In addition to the basic CERT training, the UW Office of Emergency Management has provided advanced training on subjects not covered during basic training. These have included topics such as prevention and response to suicide bombing incidents (PRSBI) from New Mexico Tech's energetic materials research training center (EMRTC) and how to deal with fatalities in a mass-casualty incident as taught by King County Medical Examiner's Office' Kathy Taylor.

I will now turn the floor over to Dr. Phil Schertzing, to talk about the C-CERT project at Michigan State.

Phil Schertzing: Thank you Scott. University of Washington has done a great job as a pioneer in campus CERT, and the UW emergency management web site is an excellent resource. I hope our program at Michigan State University (MSU) complements and expands upon the solid foundation established by UW and your ongoing efforts in the area of campus CERT.

Inspired by the earlier FEMA innovative grant for a pilot campus CERT program at the University of Washington in Seattle, this program is designed to take that model to the next level by using a train-the-trainer approach to proliferate CERT at all types and sizes of colleges and universities nationwide.

Building on the established CERT curriculum approved by FEMA, MSU developed a new Campus Annex to the standard CERT Instructor Guide, a three-day train-the-trainer curriculum, and a CD ROM with corresponding PowerPoint visuals and other useful tools. MSU also selected and trained a cadre of instructors with vast experience in public safety (fire service, law enforcement, EMS), emergency management, training and education.

Following delivery of three pilot courses and completion of the prescribed DHS course review process, the course was approved by DHS in April 2007 as Course No. AWR-189-1. A total of twelve regional train-the-trainer classes have been completed around the country with nearly 400 trained thus far. The program recently received approval for a no-cost extension to continue delivering the training until Sept. 30, 2008, and it is hoped that FEMA may provide continuation funding as well.

The overall goal of the Campus CERT Train-the-Trainer Program is to provide participants with skills, knowledge, tools and resources necessary for implementing the established CERT program in the unique context of the campus community, and for recruiting, training, organizing and leading C-CERT members.

The basic premise is that each campus constitutes a unique, complex, diverse community – a veritable "city within a city," with its unique own vulnerabilities, risks and hazards. Campus CERT is one of several new "targeted CERT programs" being developed by the Department of Homeland Security. Other examples of targeted programs include CERT for seniors, for people with disabilities, for people who speak Arabic or Spanish, and Teen CERT.

The target audience includes campus police, public safety, fire service, emergency medical services (EMS), emergency management, security officers, environmental health and safety officers, residence hall or building managers, risk managers, community relations or outreach officials, faculty or other personnel employed by any public or private college or university who may be called upon to train or lead campus CERT teams, or teach CERT as a college course. CERT trainers are also welcome from any local public safety agency, Red Cross chapter or other non-governmental organizations (NGO) that provide services to colleges and universities.

As a prerequisite, participants should have completed basic CERT training and/or be current CERT instructors, or, have at least completed the online Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute (EMI) independent study course IS-317 Introduction to Community Emergency Response Teams.

In addition, completion of the FEMA EMI online independent study courses, IS-100, Introduction to Incident Command System (ICS) and IS-700 National Incident Management System (NIMS): An Introduction, is required. These courses can be accessed online at: http://www.training.fema.gov/emiweb/IS/crslist.asp.

The Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT) Train-the-Trainer Program is a three-day course, using a combination of lectures, group discussions, completion of individual planning documents or "tool boxes," and participation in practical exercises.

The course is designed for presentation at college/university emergency services training facilities or other suitable sites. The training is optimally presented on three consecutive days and includes time for classroom lecture, breakout discussions, and "teach-back" sessions. Topics covered include the major units from the standard CERT curriculum, including: disaster preparedness; fire safety; disaster medical operations; light search and rescue operations; CERT organization; disaster psychology; terrorism and CERT; and disaster simulation exercises. Other, special topics include tips on adult learning and educational methodology, as well as the unique issues and context involved with implementing CERT in a campus community.

The C-CERT Train-the-Trainer class is offered to eligible participants at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis from agencies or academic institutions in the host state, or from any state in the general region, or nationwide. Continental breakfasts and lunches are provided each day, but the grant does not cover reimbursement for airfare, mileage, lodging, parking, per diem or other travel expenses. In many cases, these expenses may be reimbursable through the trainee's local or state emergency management or homeland security agency, or Citizen Corps program.

A pre-test and post-test will be given to assess knowledge of CERT and other information presented in this program. Aggregate results will be compared with the data from the pre-test scores for statistical significance and reported to DHS as required by the conditions of the grant. Certificates of Completion will be awarded to those who complete all three days of training.

Each trainee is provided a C-CERT backpack kit with personal protective equipment (PPE). As an added benefit, this grant allows us to provide each participating institution or agency with an allocation of up to 24 C-CERT backpack kits to help offset start-up costs for forming campus CERT teams.

MSU has also launched a C-CERT website at http://www.c-cert.msu.edu. The website includes electronic versions of the Campus Annex and PowerPoints; links to a wide variety of useful documents, articles, or websites with information on best practices or lessons learned; and sample syllabi for incorporating CERT as an academic class for college credit or CEUs. The training schedule and online registration links for upcoming C-CERT train-the-trainer classes are also accessible at this website.

That concludes our overview, and we will turn the floor back over to our Moderator to start the Q&A portion of our program.

Amy Sebring: Thanks very much Phil and Scott. Now, to proceed to your questions or comments. If you already have a C-CERT program, we would also like to hear about your experience.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Ron Swartz: Liability: What's the best way to address supervisors and administration who are concerned that employees serving and training with CCERT may get injured?

Scott Preston: Two things come to mind: first is the quality of training. Safety is always first and should be stressed at all times during the training. Next is to make sure that you are in compliance with local Good Samaritan laws and are protected under university coverage. As long as UW-CERT is on UW property and they are not grossly negligent, they are covered. If they go off property, make sure they have coverage as a State emergency workers.

Phil Schertzing: Yes, we've found varying laws, policies and views in each state. Some states have good immunity laws, or emergency management laws that cover CERT. We always recommend checking with college legal counsel, risk management. Also, the state Attorney General or emergency management agency may help.

kab5rc: For the campuses that have C-CERT teams, how involved is the EHS (Environmental Health & Safety) department?

Scott Preston: Our program was developed separately from EH&S. We did include members of EH&S in our training curriculum, especially from the Fire Safety Office, but UW Emergency Management had executive control over all aspects of CERT

Phil Schertzing: We've found varied organizational structures. Many schools organize EM and/or CERT under EHS. We've had many EHS officials attend our T-t-T classes.

Chuck Rodger: The programs are open for employees. Does that include faculty and adjunct ??

Scott Preston: Absolutely! We offer the program to any faculty or staff of the UW, including our Tacoma and Bothel campuses.

Phil Schertzing: Yes, we are getting quite a few faculty at our trainings. Some want to join or lead CERT teams. Ohers want to teach CERT as a class for credit. Some schools tell us they avoid including adjunct faculty as they are not on campus for long periods; others include them.

John Streeb: I am understanding how you can find plenty of willing individuals out of a 70,000 person campus, but does the C-CERT program work as well at smaller universities, say those, like mine, with about 11,000?

Phil Schertzing: Many smaller schools attend our classes, and some have formed CERT teams. They may wish to organize differently, rather than by building, perhaps by zone or campus-wide. Some schools also include alumni, retired faculty, etc. from the neighborhood to expand the team.

Isabel McCurdy: We know that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. How is the information provided to the students? Incorporated in student's handbook? Instructed at beginning of every term?

Phil Schertzing: For schools that include students, they would only get the info upon being trained. Some schools offer CERT classes or training to students at the beginning of fall semester even if the students will not be formal team members. For team members, refresher training and/or advanced training is important.

John Montanez: Scott, does the training include regionally specific and recurring natural threats (e.g., flood, earthquake, etc.)?

Scott Preston: Hi John. Yes, it does. We do our best to provide a variety of training. We just had CERT involved with a March 5 campus-wide earthquake drill.

Colt Hagmaier: Scott, you used the term volunteers. Does this mean that UW does not compensate employees during training, or simply that they self-elect to participate?

Scott Preston: Hi Colt. A little of both, actually. They are not compensated for their time as CERT, but they are paid at their regular if they are activated as CERT during a normal business day. We also have a policy that all CERT participation is 100% voluntary, both on the part of the CERT member as well as their manager. Both must be willing to allow the CERT member to respond.

Doug Cox: Dr. Schertzing, do you have any projection about the OKC class in April? I have been registered for both the Purdue class last July and the Anniston, AL class this month. Both canceled. If OKC is moving forward we need advance time to arrange lodging for two participants.

Phil Schertzing: Hi Doug. We're good to go for OKC with 45 registered thus far. Sorry we had to cancel the other two due to low numbers.

kab5rc: Would C-CERT teams be asked to assist community teams and wouldn't this require leaving the campus?

Scott Preston: Yes, that would. One of our efforts currently in progress is to work with the City of Seattle Emergency Management to get the UW CERT members recognized and sponsored as State-registered disaster workers. This would provide the necessary protection for them.

Phil Schertzing: Yes, we formed a joint MSU/East Lansing team here. I'm not sure about the operational issues and logistics, but thus far I've not heard of any problems.

Ron Swartz: How do employees get 'release time' to attend training and exercises? Perhaps a president's decree?

Scott Preston: It really comes down to the support at the individual unit level. Some managers recognize and value the CERT program. Others have not let their employees attend anything beyond basic. Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities for training that are off-hours and the manager has no say at that point.

Katrina Davis: To your knowledge, has Campus CERT been introduced to non-residential, or 2 year community colleges successfully?

Phil Schertzing: Yes it has. I can't name all the schools off the top of my head, but many community colleges have. From what I've heard, many two-year schools don't include students on teams because they are commuters rather than residents.

Richard Johnston: Has there been any discussion on having special training to deal with campus lockdowns or area evacuations?

Scott Preston: As with most schools, the UW has been working on a mass notification plan. There has not been active-shooter training specifically developed for CERT. However, our first real-world activation of UW-CERT was to assist our police department on the scene of a murder-suicide in one of our academic buildings in April, 2007.

Amy Sebring: Phil, is this issue included in your training?

Phil Schertzing: It's not part of the basic CERT curriculum, but is an excellent topic for supplemental training. This topic has received incredible attention in the past year of course. We're hoping to find short modules on topics such as this to include on our website, but many schools already have resident expertise to create extra classes on evacuations, severe weather events, etc.

Bob Turner: What type(s) of communication do you both utilize on campus in relation to C-CERT? In my city, we are including HAM radio operators within our CERT.

Scott Preston: UW-CERT uses VHF radios provided by emergency management. They run on the facilities network and are monitored by the UWPD. We have recently been engaging HAM enthusiasts as well for our EOC and mobile command center.

Phil Schertzing: We've heard of many schools using HAM radio folks. Other schools have their own communication/alert system in place.

Beth Gray: Scott, does your surrounding community have a separate CERT?

Scott Preston: Hi Beth. Yes, there are multiple CERT organizations around Washington State. Over the last 18 months or so, UW-CERT has been actively associating with these through events like the NW CERT Expo.

Chuck Rodger: Back to Isabel's question. Shouldn't the student body have awareness so that they can respond accordingly if necessary?

Scott Preston: Students should be informed, but that brings a whole host of additional challenges For example: some want mass notification, but are unwilling to share contact info. Some want additional information on preparedness, but our efforts at educating them only seem to excite a small percentage. I think the students need to understand that all preparedness is a personal responsibility and that they need to make a genuine effort to learn about what to do prior to an event.

Phil Schertzing: Hi Chuck. I'm a strong proponent of teaching CERT knowledge and skills to students, even if they are not included as members of a campus CERT team. At least they will be better prepared individually, which goes along with the CERT focus on citizen preparedness. I also agree with Scott that the challenge is to get students interested and engaged!

Bob Beckmann: If the C-CERT course is made a credit or non-credit course by the college, does this help with liability, worker compensation, injury, and costs?

Phil Schertzing: From what I've seen thus far, schools that offer CERT as a class for credit tend not to include students on formal teams, so liability is not a big issue. Typically, these schools help proliferate CERT by educating students who take the skills and knowledge with them on to jobs, grad school, or back home.

Cherie Boyce: Have you experienced any concerns from First Responders (i.e., firefighters, deputies, paramedics, etc.) that they are being replaced by CERT? Are there concerns that CERT volunteers may become nuisances or interfere with 9-1-1 capabilities? We teach to rapid response as Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment until the First Responders arrive on scene. Any comments?

Scott Preston: We have had some concerns from both city First Responders and the University Police Department. I anticipated these and from the very beginning looked for opportunities to bring CERT closer together with professional first responders. I was fortunate to have a football stadium on campus, complete with a football season and all of the issues those games bring for the police, fire and medical responders. UW-CERT has been involved in two football seasons now, as well as commencement. This has been a wonderful experience as CERT and police, fire and medical have all worked side by side to respond to life-safety issues.

Phil Schertzing: Scott's right. The more you bring in local first responders to help with training CERT, or have CERT teams work with them in drills, exercises or actual events, the more familiar they become to each other, the less threatened first responders feel, and more likely to support them as a great resource.


Amy Sebring: Thanks. That's all we have time for today. Thank you very much Scott and Phil for an excellent job. We hope you enjoyed the experience and we really appreciate it. Please stand by just a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements

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Thanks to everyone for participating today and all the excellent questions! We stand adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Scott and Phil for a fine job.