Developing Instructors and the Tuolumne Band of Mewuk Indians

Today, we kicked off a terrific CERT Train-the-Trainer class.  At 8:00am this morning 43 eager students showed up ready to learn how to become great Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Trainers.  As I’ve mentioned previously, this class, along with the CERT Program Manager class, which will begin later in the week, are being supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Management Institute (FEMA EMI) in Emmittsburg, MD.  With support like this, a local community can receive from FEMA all necessary books and administrative supplies necessary to conduct a class at no cost.  However, they will still need to arrange for and pay instructor costs.  If needed, the staff at EMI can help identify qualified instructors.  And, as in the case of this class, there may be grant money available to pay for instructional delivery.  In the end, this can be a cost-effective way to deliver quality training that our communities need so badly.

Welcome to class!

The class make-up is such that 95% of the attendees are tribal members representing many different Native American tribes from California, Nevada, and Arizona. The one reason I am very excited and honored about teaching this class is to learn more about the culture and beliefs of the various tribes represented.

As in most adult educational classes, we started off the morning with individual introductions.  One of the things we do in our training classes is to ask students what their expectations are of the class.  The reason we ask this is to make sure we are making the training relevant to them and that when they leave at the end of the class they do so feeling it was time well spent because we addressed their expectations.

From the introductions and expectations came the following interesting observations:

  • We need to bring this training to tribal members within Indian Territory because they are often overlooked.
  • We must find ways to engage and teach our children (ie Teen CERT) because they don’t readily see the value or show interest on their own.
  • Tribal elders aren’t always interested in “preparedness” because they feel by talking about preparedness we are encouraging bad things to happen.

Once we completed student introductions, one of our students was gracious and offered a prayer.  I found out this is a fairly common practice before tribal meetings.  The prayer was directed toward “Grandfather” (our creator) and focused on helping our families and others and protecting “Mother Earth”.  What a great way to begin teaching a class!

Other things we learned today …

  • Native speakers tend not to read from notes … instead they speak from the heart
  • Native speakers tend to be less aggressive and more thoughtful in their verbal communication

Students learning how to be a CERT instructor

The material we covered today included:

Course Introduction – Identified instructor qualifications, how to prepare content and classroom, what’s in the Instructor Guide Table of Contents, and a description of Instructor Guide and Participant Manual.

Disaster Preparedness Basics – We spent time talking about how to introduce and sell the CERT Program, how to get people hooked, and how to provide information on preparing the home and workplace for emergencies/ disasters.

Your role as an instructor – We described the roles of the CERT instructor and covered desired qualities of an effective CERT instructor.  W also addressed some qualities of a good presenter, and explained how to develop a teaching style that conveys those qualities.

Fire Safety – Throughout this discussion we provided basic information about fire, fire hazards, and hazardous materials, teaching about fire hazards and personal fire safety, how to reduce hazards, what CERT volunteers can and can’t respond to and how to do it safely, and how to introduce the concept of “size up” and reinforce the concept of teamwork.

Emergency Medical – In this unit they will be teaching how to recognize and treat three “killers”: (Airway obstruction, Bleeding, and Shock), what “triage” is and general procedures for conducting triage, including how to evaluate a victim during triage and how to document what is found.  We reinforced the need that as instructors they will need to continually emphasize the importance of rescuer safety.

Throughout the day we reminded students to be aware of the makeup of their students participants.  For example, not everyone will want to engage in medical operations exercises.  As instructors, they will need to be conscious of the students reactions as theyteach.  they need to teach to the appropriate level of participants.  Students were encouraged to use scenarios to make the skills seem more useful and to facilitate learning.  When it came top triage, we encouraged the students to keep triage instruction simple.  We emphasized clearly the distinction between medical treatment and triage – for CERT first responders, the need for speed is eclipsed by the need for proper assessment within the scope of the responder’s training and skills.  We spent time talking about liability and the Good Samaritan law.  Key to liability issue:  Make sure that everyone stays within scope of the training/skills provided.  As Instructors we should model correct step-by-step procedures and safety equipment.

At this point of the class, our future instructors were getting prepared for more disaster medical operations that will be covered in Unit 4.  Students are also learning and practicing increasingly complex teamwork as they progress through the various units in the class.

I want to conclude my posting today by sharing with you some interesting information about one of the tribes represented in our class this week.  I’m actually going to do this each day this week with several of the other tribes in class as well.

Several students in class represent the Tuolumne Band of Mewuk Indians.  I encourage you to visit their tribal website at .  The tribe resides in the central California region near the Sierra Nevada foothills.  Nationally, there are about 560+ nationally recognized tribes.  Of those, about 160 reside in the state of California on approximately 467,000 acres of tribal land which is relatively small but growing.  Today, the Tuolumne Band realizes the importance land has in the economic development and well-being of the tribe and its members that they regularly look for opportunities to increase their land holdings.

Members live on “Rancherias” which is a term used for tribal land trusts.  Today, more and more Native Americans want to move back and live on the Rancherias (or reservation) in an effort to be with family and regain their history.

With their economic development and growth in both land holdings and residents, emergency preparedness has become an important issue for the tribe.  Their culture teaches them that they must take care of themselves and so programs like CERT are seen as a great training opportunity that can help members of their tribe be self-sufficient.

A unique public safety/preparedness initiative recently undertaken by the tribe was working with county government to establish Memorandum’s of Understanding.  An example where this was helpful was when some county roads that served the Rancherias (reservation) and maintained by the tribe were not listed on county records therefore hampering timely ambulance service.  The tribe worked with county government to get those roads mapped with GPS coordinates and now members of the tribe enjoy improved ambulance accessibility.

If you want to learn more about emergency preparedness issues in a Native American culture, you might want to take a couple of tribal related courses in the FEMA Independent Study Program

Well, please come back tomorrow to hear more about my experiences with this class and the terrific people in it.


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