A disaster preparedness course is being offered at Iowa State University for the first time this fall to prepare students for everything from severe weather to hazardous material spills.
ISU Emergency Manager Clayton Oliver teaches the course to honors program students who must successfully complete special courses as part of their requirements to graduate with honors.
“The name of the class is You Are Your Own First Responder,” says Oliver. “The general underlying concept is to teach basic first responder skills, disaster medicine, triage, fire extinguisher use, light search and rescue to, in this case, honor students. “
As part of the course, an apartment in Ames was transformed into a simulated tornado disaster area as students learned how to react and manage an emergency. “It’s a class that gives them a lot of skills where hopefully they’ll never be in a situation where they have to use them, but if they are, they can take specific action,” says Oliver. “There is a strong interest in our students in learning to take care of themselves – and to care for others – in an emergency. “
The seminar revolves around the training of the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT. It includes academic elements such as studying reports of disasters such as the 1993 Iowa floods and the 2011 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri. “What I’m trying to do with this is pilot what I hope will someday be a bigger program where we can disseminate these skills to more people on campus, whether it’s students, faculty or staff, ”says Oliver,“ and ultimately build a campus that is better prepared to respond to disasters, more resilient and more able to recover from them.
Besides the tornado exercise, students also learn disaster medicine and victim stabilization with staff at Thielen Student Health Center, Search and Rescue and Extrication with the Ames Fire Department, and disaster psychology for victims and responders with ISU student counseling.