20 Aug 2012

The Importance of Campus Early Response Teams

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A number of recent high profile and tragic events on college campuses around the United States have pointed a bright spotlight on the preparedness of colleges and universities to handle just such emergencies. As college and university environments mirror those of corporate America in many ways they have adapted and enhanced the scope of their Campus Emergency Response Teams or CERTs to meet these demands.

By incorporating different groups within the campus community, such as Greek societies, athletics and other clubs, the school can tap into an enthusiastic student body as a source of communication and create improved interaction along with a heightened sense of community. This highbred organization is then supported by campus faculty and staff who provide additional insight with their working knowledge of resources and capabilities.

There are a number of important benefits in the establishment of CERT including the interaction with other emergency response teams both at the school and also in the community, such as local police, fire departments, and government. They can also serve a resource for public outreach for the school an serve the community of which the school is a part.

In turn the agencies which the CERT program collaborates with can serve as a resource for expanded training for its members. CERT programs from other schools can provide to be a valuable resource enabling the sharing of best practices.

While there is no doubt that a campus Emergency Response team is a vital part of any campus security program it remains a challenge to maintain them. First, the initial enthusiasm felt by new members during and immediately following training will fade. This creates a potential revolving door and can create other lapses. Other areas of concern are liability, continued training, and of course, funding. Funding a CERT can be especially difficult considering the challenges facing the budgets of institutions everywhere. A number of CERT’s have been able to sustain themselves by reaching out to local law enforcement and other emergency response agencies for donations of equipment and training while others have qualified for student funds or reverted to good old fashioned fundraising in the community.

Given the numerous benefits, including the ability to share and increase the level of preparedness across a diverse group of campus groups and individuals it is easy to see why such a group is an important part of any campus security program. Any of the obstacles associated with a program can be easily conquered with campus administrators, staff, faculty and students all working towards the common goal of a safer campus environment.

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