CERT program a success in Wheaton, admits new emergency response volunteers


Photo by Dhanveer Gill

An injured dummy is crushed under a pole that was knocked over by a car during the disaster simulation.

By Dhanveer Gill, Managing Editor

The Community Emergency Response Team program admitted dozens of new members at the DuPage County Event Center and Fairgrounds in Wheaton following a final exam on Thursday, April 13.

Injured volunteers chose different roles which stated their injuries, which also corresponded with makeup to make the scenario realistic. A CERT worker forged a compound fracture in order to match junior Mariana Acosta’s injuries. (Photo by Enaya Kazmi)

The Community Emergency Response Team (better known as CERT) is a volunteer-based program where community members learn disaster-response techniques to assist in the event of an emergency, such as a mass shooting in a public area, or a natural disaster. CERT was implemented nationally by FEMA in 1993 and has been growing in members ever since.

“CERT is the Community Emergency Response Team. We train alongside first responders in the case of a disaster, so we go out and help out,” Trish Billings, the program manager for Milton Township, said.

In order to become a member of CERT, all volunteers must pass a final exam, which usually is a hands-on scenario designed to recreate a disaster. This spring’s final exam was a mock situation where an unauthorized vehicle went rogue and drove through a parade full of marching people.

At approximately 6:30 on April 13, CERT trainees arrived at the fairgrounds, where they were tasked with locating all injured volunteers and bringing them to an impromptu medical tent to treat their wounds.

Junior Valerie Harris and senior Tyler Bute were among some of the National Honor Society students who volunteered for the final exam. (Photo by Dhanveer Gill)

Several members of West Chicago’s National Honor Society were present at the final exam, as they volunteered to act as injured parade-goers to make the situation feel more realistic. Volunteers were encouraged to scream and shout for help to create a sense of chaos.

Sirens and other loud noises were played through speakers to further add to the sense of disorder.

“What they try to do is make it as confusing as possible, and to make it as close as they can to a simulation of real life,” Dave Hempe, a volunteer for the CERT program, said.

The event concluded in about two hours and all trainees passed and were awarded their certification. Free food was provided for all volunteers, and many pledged that they would volunteer and work with CERT in the future.

“I think it’s a fun experience and you get to meet new people and have fun,” junior Valerie Harris, a student volunteer at the event, said.