FORT SILL, Okla. (June 13, 2019) -- Fort Sill conducted its first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training June 4-5, at its Youth Center. The class drew about 40 participants from the post, administrators from Lawton Public Schools, and middle school students enrolled in the center's summer camp.

A CERT member is one who acts immediately in an emergency situation until first responders arrive, said Steve Gluck, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security emergency manager, who led the training.

"You are the help until help arrives," he said. The first people on scene are the ones directly in the incident area, and if they have some knowledge and skills, they can save lives.

The 16-hour course covered using fire extinguishers, shutting off utilities, basic first aid, light search-and-rescue for the home or neighborhood, and helping to command and manage an incident, he said. It is a national course with a standardized curriculum.

"We want the trainees to have some individual skills that they can use for themselves and their families," Gluck said. The skills are applicable at home as well as in work settings.

Gluck said part of his job is community preparedness, and 80 percent of Soldiers and their families live off post, "so whenever I do anything I always make it a whole community effort."

LPS administrators attended the course because a goal for the next year is to create teen CERT programs in the school district, Gluck said.

It's been proven pre-teens and teens are amenable to becoming CERT responders, Gluck said.

"Once these kids have the information and the knowledge they can really step up not only to help themselves, but other students and everyone else," he said. Now emergency operations plans don't have adults doing everything, but incorporate children taking active, responsible roles, too.

The CERT training also exposes children to other professions they may be interested in pursuing, he said.

Lynn Cordes, LPS executive director of media and technology services, took the CERT training to see how the training can be brought into the district's schools.

"We have kids in our buildings who want to be part of something bigger," she said. "Kids can do a lot, they're taking ownership."

She added that LPS has a strong partnership with Fort Sill in emergency response and disaster preparedness, and LPS regularly participates in exercises with the post.

Cooper Child Development Center Training Specialist Lindsay Insomya was one of the participants.

"I'm taking the CERT Training so that I can be prepared for both my family and at the center in case of an emergency," she said.

She said she's going to have more of her staff take the training.

"We have 220 children and we have to know how to take care of all those babies until first responders arrive," she said. "The more staff who are prepared, the safer those kids are."

Fort Sill Fire Station No. 3 Chief Michael Hickman assisted with the training. CPR was one of the skills he was training the children. He said the students were enjoying the training, but some of them were a little apprehensive about being placed in an emergency situation.

"We have them repeat (CPR) skills multiple times so they get used to doing the action," he said. Once they feel comfortable with them, they will be psychological prepared to use it when it is needed.

Sydney Herbert, age 11, a camper at Child and Youth Services was one of the students taking the CERT training. She said she felt comfortable using her newly acquired skills.

"If something bad really does happen, if someone is hurt and it's serious, then I can do what I can to make it better," said Sydney, who will be a seventh grader at Eisenhower Middle School.

The participants received a certificate of training from the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, who along with Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training provided materials used in the CERT program, Gluck said.

Oklahoma has been using CERTs to assist with flood relief efforts the past few weeks in the northeast part of the state, Gluck said. And, CERT graduates not only respond to disasters and emergency situations, but can also assist with such things as fire extinguisher drives, or at safety expos providing preparedness information.

CERT training covers what terrorism is, but the participant are not taught to respond to terrorist activities, Gluck said. "They are not professional responders who are equipped to handle terrorists, so we never want them responding to a terrorist attack."

Gluck said he plans to make the CERT training a regular offering to organizations at Fort Sill. That would create CERTs throughout the installation, who could not only take care of their people until help arrives, but also assist the Fort Sill Department of Emergency Services to fill responder roles in a major incident.

The training culminated with a mock tornado disaster with "casualties" where the responders used all the skills they learned in CERT.

"They had to clear buildings and find, rescue, triage, and treat injuries, and set patients up for transport to a medical facility," Gluck said.