Weather Alert

ISU Course Teaches Students How to Be Their Own First Responder

(Radio Iowa) A class in disaster preparedness is being offered at Iowa State University for the first time this fall to ready students for everything from severe weather to hazardous materials spills. I-S-U’s emergency manager Clayton Oliver is teaching the course to students in the Honors Program who need to pass special classes as part of their requirements to graduate with honors.

“The name of the class is You Are Your Own First Responder,” Oliver says. “The general concept behind it is teaching baseline first responder skills, disaster medicine, triage, how to use a fire extinguisher, light duty search and rescue to, in this case, honor students.” As part of the course, an Ames apartment was turned into a simulated tornado disaster area as students learned how to respond to and manage an emergency.

“This is a class that offers 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 definite action,” Oliver says. “There’s a strong interest in our students in learning how to take care of themselves — and how to take care of others — in emergencies.” The seminar is built around Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, training. It includes academic elements like studying reports from disasters like 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 be a larger program someday where we can spread these skills to more people across the campus, whether that’s students, faculty or staff,” Oliver says, “and ultimately, build a campus that is more prepared to respond to disasters, more resilient and more capable of recovering from them.” Besides the tornado drill, students are also learning about disaster medicine and stabilizing victims with Thielen Student Health Center staff, search and rescue and extrication with the Ames Fire Department, and disaster psychology for victims and responders with I-S-U Student Counseling.


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