Be prepared: Kennedy teens CERT trained and ready to help

December 2017 Posted in Community

CERT coordinator Crystal Williams, with Mount Angel CERT teens Whitney Lopez, Draiven Follis, Melanie Lopez and Officer Charlie Hall. Nancy Jennings

By Nancy Jennings

Mount Angel can boast a unique accomplishment – one that would make any community, or parent, proud. The small city in Marion County is the only one, to date, to have three teens join its Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT).

The trio — Melanie Lopez (15), Whitney Lopez (15) and Draiven Follis (16) – were recognized and received their completion certificates on Aug. 7 at Mount Angel’s City Council meeting. The teens were formally introduced to the council by their CERT Instructor/Coordinator Crystal Williams, whose daughter, Anna, 18, has been a CERT instructor for two years.

Williams was impressed with the can-do attitude of her students.

“Seeing people realize how easy it is to help – how can that not make you feel good? To have some kids there at the school that know what I know? It makes me feel so much better,” she said. The John F. Kennedy High School students completed 21 hours of study and hands-on training through role-playing scenarios. Their training classes, held on Saturdays at the Mount Angel Fire Department, began in late May and ended shortly after the beginning of summer break. Modules covered included: disaster preparedness, terrorism awareness, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, how to triage, fire safety utility, organizational hierarchy and medic (splinting, bandaging, pressure points, shock, checking airway and bleeding). Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was not included as part of their specific training due to their focus on the management of mass quantities of people – not on an individual basis.

Each applicant participated in a general interview given by a CERT leader. Criminal background and fingerprint clearances were required before ID badges were issued.

“Because of liability issues, the county prefers they be at least 14 years old,” Williams said.

Now certified, the teens are ready to assist with emergency situations, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-based events, such as earthquakes.

“For example, if I’m in Hawaii on vacation and a volcano decides to blow, I can assist,” Williams explained.

Silverton twin sisters, Melanie and Whitney Lopez, enjoyed the learning experience together. Mount Angel Police Officer Charlie Hall is the JFK resource officer. He first mentioned the CERT training opportunity to Melanie during a school basketball game. Whitney heard about it from her sister – and curiosity quickly led to action.

“Melanie said something about wanting to try it out. So, I thought that could be something interesting that I might want to get into. She explained it to me and I thought it would be fun to become part of the community and help out,” she said.

Melanie recited CERT’s main goal: “We’re supposed to save the most amount of lives in the least amount of time.”

Draiven, a  Mount Angel resident, first heard about the training in an unlikely setting.

“It’s a funny story. I got lunch detention and Mr. Hall was actually doing a presentation about it,” he said with a grin. Looking back, he said it made him glad to join a team with a clear purpose.

“It helps prepare you and others if there’s a natural – or otherwise – disaster to protect or save lives.”

Officer Hall is pleased seeing students become proactive regarding the safety of others.

“Crystal and I had been in a discussion about looking for a way to involve the youth more in the preparedness of the community, and giving them different pathways to possible career choices.”


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