How to prepare and safely respond to a disaster, whether it is an earthquake, windstorm or a wildfire, then ultimately recover and let emergency crews go into action are all being taught this week as South Pasadena Unified School District personnel go through Community Emergency Response Team Training (CERT) at the local fire station.
Instruction, conducted between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., began on Tuesday and will run through Thursday as teachers, office, custodial and maintenance staff learn how they can effectively and responsibly handle emergency situations.
Curriculum includes a wide range of topics about basic disaster response, including fire safety, team organization, search and rescue, and disaster medical operations.
“I think it’s important that the school district contacted us to have this training,” explained Kris Saxon, a captain with the South Pasadena Fire Department. “They do go through a certain amount of training in school district but this only enhances that level of what they’ve learned.”
The local fire department traditionally conducts CERT programs in February and March and September and October for the general public. This week’s class was arranged specifically for the school district.
On top of the normal CERT instruction, some of this week’s training is geared to disasters that could occur while students are in classrooms. “We want the teachers and faculty to be confident to know what to do in an emergency involving students, along with having the necessary supplies on hand for minor medical situations,” explained Saxon.
CERT training, which annually includes support from the South Pasadena Public Safety Commission, began locally in 2014. SPFD Chief Paul Riddle says more than 300 citizens have been trained to date and this week’s effort is the first in which the department focused on school district faculty.
“It’s a great relationship to establish because we’re teaching the normal skillsets – disaster preparedness, disaster first aid, electrical safety,” explained Riddle. “But we’re also gearing some of the training toward skillsets faculty may need if a disaster were to occur during school hours. It’s important to start a dialogue of what the school district can do to better prepare for a disaster and effectively respond when they are in the care of children.”
The importance of the training in SPUSD Superintendent Geoff Yantz’s mind is to “build capacity in our employees in order to improve safety for themselves as well as schools and community,” he said. “If there was a significant disaster we would be able to marshal the resources to save lives.”
Yantz said the skills learned by school personnel can be helpful not only around local campuses, but in any real life situation, should it be at home, a park or in a car.
Karen Reed, the assistant superintendent of human resources, believes the training is especially important for all the school district principals, teachers, and staff to learn what to do in any sort of an emergency. “We’re all here to help others in a time of need,” she stressed.
It marks the second time that Dr. Laurie Narro, the principal at Monterey Hills Elementary School, has gone through the training. She took it all in once before with South Pasadena community members. “This is a good refresher in case of any emergencies on our campus,” she said. “With this training, we can act as first responders at our schools and in our neighborhoods.”