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Sholnn Freeman
April 13, 2011

Howard Improves Emergency Preparedness

WASHINGTON  –  Howard  University has completed  Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, part of a nation-wide initiative designed to prepare communities in the event of a natural disaster or major emergency.

The program seeks to train citizens in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. Forty-five University employees participated in the three-month training program.

CERT training at Howard, which began in September, was sponsored by the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, the District of Columbia CERT program, Georgetown University’s Department of Emergency Management and Operational Continuity and Howard University’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Claude Williams, Howard CERT program coordinator, said the establishment of a campus emergency response support team shows that the University is proactively working to identify and train first responders on campus. 

“With over 10,000 students and close to 1,400 employees on campus on any given day, the University is really a city within itself,” Williams said. “If the ‘city’ of Howard was impacted by a natural disaster such as a major fire or snowstorm, roads could be blocked leading in to the campus and communication could be stalled due to downed power lines and other circumstances.”

The Howard CERT training is patterned after the 28-hour CERT program developed and implemented by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985. CERT training has spread to cities and towns across the country. CERT has been endorsed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), the National Fire Academy and the Department of Homeland Security.

Marlene Mahoney, building manager for the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library, is one of the 45 employees who completed the Howard CERT training. She said he has learned how to triage victims, how to stop bleeding and how to help victims in shock. Howard CERT team members are assigned to specific buildings at the three Howard campuses.

“Learning more about the potential disasters that could affect our campus has really opened my eyes to the importance of being prepared before a disaster strikes,” she said.  “I don’t think that anyone could ever be totally prepared for a disaster, but getting the training to be a CERT member is a step in the right direction.”

During the training period, Howard CERT team members heard from professionals from fire and emergency medical services departments as well as officers from the District of Columbia CERT program.

Williams said plans are underway to post a campus/community CERT web page or blog to keep team members informed and engaged. He said he is actively seeking students or staff members to assist in developing and managing the project. Williams also said he has taken steps to register the HU CERT Program with the national and local CERT offices.

The members include: Benjamin Wilson, School of Education; Kim Banks, Cramton Auditorium; Deborah Tibbs, School of Pharmacy; Odessa Scott, Department of Fine Arts; Marlene Mahoney, Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library; Dr. Anesta O. Shaw, ISAS; Rodney Palmer, Office of the Secretary; Jerome Roberson, Law School; Kini Spacey, School of Divinity; Jonathan Ajose, Howard University Research Building I; Dave Tomlinson, Environmental Health and Safety; Dr. Robert Catchings, Department of Physics and Errol Watkis, Founders Library

For more information about the CERT program at Howard University, contact Mary Washington, assistant CERT Coordinator, at (202) 806-1033 or via email,

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