Editorial: Community Emergency Response Team to prepare CWRU for crisis

Most students agree that Case Western Reserve University does a good job keeping the campus secure. The university makes an effort to help its students feel safe, with its own police force and its free, accessible services such as SafeRide. However, some students have raised the question: How would CWRU react in the face of a major crisis, such as a shooting, a bomb threat, or a national disaster? It’s not something that bears much close thought, but we need to recognize that it is a possibility – and we need to be prepared for the worst.

In light of that, the recently incepted Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, sounds like an excellent idea. CERT has been given the task of preparing CWRU for a large-scale emergency. The funds for CERT came in the form of a grant of over half a million dollars from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, as part of the Emergency Management for Higher Education program. The funds will go toward establishing and training a CWRU-specific CERT, based on a “comprehensive national model for disaster resilience on college campuses,” according to the CWRU website.

At the moment, the team’s organization and specific goals remain fuzzy. It will be comprised of faculty and staff volunteers, who will be trained by licensed emergency and medical personnel in such areas as emergency medical treatment, search and rescue, and small fire control. It is assumed that CERT will also involve some kind of new, or at least improved, communication system to help streamline the disaster response process. Updated protocols, outlining exactly how the university will react to various crisis situations, should also be developed and made available to students.

Because it will be difficult to judge CERT’s success until disaster strikes, it would be a good idea for CERT to organize campus-wide crisis simulations, to practice the new protocols and identify areas for improvement. This would also make the campus community more aware of what to do in case on an emergency. It is important to keep students as much in the loop as possible, not only to help them feel safe, but to better prepare the campus as a whole.

The CWRU campus has always provided a safe and comfortable environment for students, and CERT will only improve upon this tradition – although just how much of an improvement remains to be seen. We hope that as CERT gets off the ground, the university will keep its students apprised of developments in its new disaster response strategies.