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CERT training: JHS freshmen complete Teen CERT training

Jamestown High School freshmen in the Teen CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program apply first aid to “victims” of a mock bleacher collapse in their final exercise on Thursday. David Luessen / The Sun1 / 2
Jamestown High School freshmen in the Teen CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) help “victims” in a mock bleacher collapse as part of their final exercise in the program.2 / 2

Screams and chaos filled the Jamestown High School gymnasium on Thursday as a group of freshmen ran to the aid of their fellow classmates.

A mock bleacher collapse was staged in the gym as the students’ final exercise as part of their Teen CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training. CERT and Teen CERT are Federal Emergency Management Agency programs aimed to educate the public on disaster preparedness.

The “victims” in the exercise were played by JHS drama students who were sprawled out amongst the bleachers, Many were made up with severe injuries such as a gaping chest wound or exposed bones. To add to the confusion, some of the actors did not speak English.

“It’s a bleacher-collapse scenario — we just had a big event so they were overloaded,” said Sarah Van De Velde, as a pair of students carried a bloody victim past her to a first-aid site.

Van De Velde is Stutsman County’s assistant emergency manager and one of the instructors for the Teen CERT training.

“What they’re doing here is search and rescue, going through and triaging the victims, finding out what’s wrong with them, and then they are transporting them to separate areas to get treatment. Those are the main points for this one (scenario),” she said.

The Teen CERT course lasts about six to eight weeks and teaches students basic first aid, search and rescue, fire safety and disaster planning. The program’s instructors are from the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office, Stutsman County Emergency Management, Jamestown Police Department, the Buffalo Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Jamestown Ambulance Service.

BVC Red Cross Executive Director Beth Dewald teaches disaster planning and preparedness for the course and said this year marks a milestone in Teen CERT at the high school.

“The unique thing is this is our fourth year doing it. We now have all four grades in the high school that are CERT trained,” Dewald said. “In the event something happens they have some disaster plans in place, and we stress take care of yourself, your family and then your neighborhood.”

The students are given special CERT backpacks that Dewald said contain “all the tools that in a real-life situation they would use to do a response.”

Van De Velde said the Teen CERTs would not actually be deployed to a disaster, but the skills they learn would be adaptable to a scenario they might find themselves in some day.

“Hopefully we’ll have a lot of prepared students that will be able to handle the beginning of a situation before those first responders could get there,” Van De Velde said.

Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by

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