Skip to main content

ASU cadets take on crisis response challenge

ROTC CERT trainees rescuing a dummy from underneath a block of cement
November 25, 2014

Disaster can strike anywhere, anytime, but thanks to a program started in California to train civilians to help during crises, 18 Arizona State University Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets are better prepared to respond to an emergency.

The ROTC cadet volunteers spent Nov. 21-23 earning their Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification as part of an ASU Office of Emergency Preparedness initiative to grow a core group of individuals that can assist during a crisis, whether on campus or in their local community.

The premise of CERT is that during a large-scale emergency – such as natural disaster, terrorist attack or environmental catastrophe – there will not likely be enough first responders available.

“Government resources are finite resources,” said John Moede, City of Scottsdale Emergency Management Coordinator and lead CERT instructor. “During a crisis, help may be delayed. We’re living in the time of doing more with less.”

Moede knows. A retired Los Angeles firefighter, he spent 28 years as a first responder. He was also part of the disaster preparedness unit that developed the CERT concept, now a federal program under the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Moede recognizes training as the key to crisis response. The fog and intensity of an emergency can overwhelm individuals and render them ineffective.

“People will not do what you tell them to do,” he said. “They will do what they are trained to do.”

The ROTC cadets understood the importance of training. Air Force ROTC Cadet Capt. Bryce Muzzy volunteered for CERT training to learn how to respond the right way.

“I have the will to help right now,” said Muzzy, who aspires to be an Air Force combat rescue officer. “But I want to make sure I have the right skills so I don’t do more harm than good.”

The local CERT program has been around for about three and a half years. It is now conducted as a partnership between the cities of Scottsdale and Tempe. Together, the two cities typically sponsor two CERT classes of 30 to 45 individuals per year. The training of the ROTC cadets is a first, and it signals ASU’s entrance into the CERT partnership with the two neighboring communities.

“I want the ROTC cadets to be the core of our disaster preparedness response and champions of this course,” said Allen Clark, director of ASU Emergency Preparedness. “This aligns with their service culture and a way to further embed ASU into our communities.”

Clark plans on arranging more advanced training in the future for the newly certified cadets, along with indoctrinating new volunteers on the basic course.

The basic course teaches the need for CERT and how the program came to be. The curriculum covers terrorism, medical operations, firefighting and search and rescue. After two days of classroom briefings and hands-on training, students are put through an actual disaster exercise at the Hontz Training Center in Tempe, under the watchful eye of an experienced instructor cadre. Here they practice hands-on rescuing and treating of role-playing “casualties” in a simulated town struck by a disaster.

“It’s a lot of information but I like how they’ve split it up between briefs and hands-on training,” said Cadet Corporal Alexis Johnson, Army ROTC Sun Devil Batallion. “I don’t mind lectures but nothing really helps set info in than hands-on training.”

During this CERT class, volunteer Boy Scouts helped with the training by playing the role of casualties. This gave the students a better sense of realism, and it was mutually beneficial.

“We were lucky to have some scouts to help us,” said Moede. “This helped them earn their preparedness merit badge.”

Many stand to benefit from CERT training. The event organizers underscored the fact that CERT is not only good for the students who go on to become “preparedness advocates” but also for potentially multiple communities and social groups.

“The skills they learn here are not only for use at ASU,” Clark said. “They can take what they’ve learned and apply it anywhere, whether back in their hometowns, hanging out with friends, etc.”

The class concluded with a graduation ceremony, with each participant receiving a certificate confirming successful course completion. Army Lt. Col. Daniel Roberts, ASU professor of military science, was on hand to present the certificates to the 18 ROTC cadets. He praised them for their accomplishments and challenged them to make a positive difference in the military and in their communities.