Western Oregon to start CERT program

MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University is starting a County Emergency Response Team on campus.

The team is in the beginning stages, said Rebecca Chiles, director of WOU Public Safety.

The decision to have a team dedicated to the campus came from trainings, upcoming classes, and expanding assets to respond to emergencies, Chiles said.

“I had CERT training previously,” Chiles said. “I found out that we had an actual CERT trainer that worked here on campus, which was Kimber (Townsend), I said, why are we not offering this on campus.”

Townsend is the director of Polk County CERT and works at WOU.

As Chiles put together a team for a FEMA class, which will be for all of Oregon’s public universities and hosted by WOU in July, she decided the campus should have its own CERT.

“Kimber’s responsible for Polk County, so she’s not going to be able to respond up here,” Chiles said.

Susan Griffin was put in charge of WOU’s team.

“She’s an organized, detailed, passionate person,” Chiles said of Griffin. “That’s what it really takes for something like this, because it’s volunteer. You have to like it. You have to want to do it, and she really does.”

When it comes to responding to any kind of emergency — flood, fire, active shooter or a 9.0 earthquake — it comes down to assets, Chiles said.

“CERT’s a big one to me, but we need it organized,” she said. “We’ve been to the training; we have people training all over campus. This is a way to bring people together and say, ‘What are you willing to do during an emergency?’”

Chiles said some people participated in the training because they wanted to learn, but she wants a commitment from people on a voluntary basis to respond if a disaster happens at Western.

People already on the Polk County CERT may cross over and be on the call or notification list for Western, Chiles said.

Western’s team will be open to anybody, not just those associated with campus.

“We’re encouraging our employees and our students to go to trainings, but it’s absolutely open to everybody,” Chiles said.

Right now, Griffin is working on gathering those with CERT training together to see who wants to be on Western’s team.

“If you’re talking a large-scale, mass-casualty type disaster, it’s just another thing,” Chiles said. “What’s out there for us to pull from for resources? We managed to get all these people (CERT) trained, so it’s just a good way to go with it.”

For more information: griffins@wou.edu.


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