More of what’s happening in Topeka

Well, today we completed our second full-day of training here in Topeka, and based on comments at the end of day, everyone walked away with something of value.  We have another half-day tomorrow and then we’re heading for home.

We started class this morning with a visit from Ms. Terri Ploger-McCool who is the Preparedness Branch Director at the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.  It was great having Terri come in and address the class.  She mentioned how pleased she was to see such a great turnout for the class and that she hoped the class would find opportunities after training to work together and get others involved in helping our communities be better prepared.

Our day was full today.  We covered how to teach the basic Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Units 3 and 4 (Emergency Medical Operations), Unit 5 (Light Search and Rescue), and Unit 6 (CERT Organization).  And while the information and experiences we shared are good, the class REALLY enjoyed the “teach backs” that were assigned yesterday.

Teach Backs

The “teach backs” we assigned are a multi-faceted exercise for the students.  First, it allows them the opportunity to practice instructional delivery techniques in a small group (safe) environment.  Second, it allows students the opportunity to collaborate on the development of a short instructional presentation.  Third, it allows all students the opportunity to practice evaluation and feedback skills.  I really like “teach backs” and will continue to look for situations in which I can incorporate this valuable exercise into other classes I teach.

Managing the Classroom

This is a very interactive unit within the curriculum with the learning happening primarily through discussion and exercise.  Due to the engagement, students tend to really enjoy this unit.

Many instructors-to-be are the most apprehensive about working with challenging learners. Actual instances are few and there are good tips for how to deal with them. This unit provides those tips and helps reassure instructors learn how they might be able to handle any situation that might arise.

One good, One bad, and What I learned

At the end of class today we had the students work through an exercise that I hadn’t used in quite a while, but have always liked.  I think it serves as an effective way to gauge how the class is progressing.

We had the class stand and form a circle with all students facing inward.  I started the exercise by telling them that the objective is when the ball is thrown to them, they need to state one thing that they either really liked about the class today, one thing they didn’t like about the class today, or one thing they learned in class today.  Needless to say throwing and catching a small foam ball gave everyone a few laughs.  The information students share in this fun exercise proves very helpful to me as an instructor allowing me to reinforce or correct issues the next day.

Shawnee County CERT

After class today, I had the pleasure to spend a few minutes visiting with one of my students and learning more about the CERT efforts in Shawnee County.  Current estimates are that the county has over 300 citizens trained in CERT.  From those 300 trained citizens, about 100 are active in that they return regularly for continuing training and make themselves available for emergency deployments.

There are several local CERT teams within the county.  All local teams are supported by a county specific team, and all teams (local and county) are structured following the ICS model.

The county faces the traditional risks/threats that most Midwestern communities face including tornado’s, storms, earthquake (minor), heat, etc.  One interesting use of CERT team members is that many are active as “storm spotters”.  Last night as an example, many were busy watching very stormy weather come through the Topeka area.  Last year, CERT teams were activated in response to a large wind-storm that damaged the area.  CERT teams were activated to a common meeting location and the tasked with helping with debris removal and damage assessment using a “grid search.”

When I asked why she became involved in CERT, she told me she had many reasons including the chance for community give-back.  She also wanted to make sure she would be prepared and that she could help others.  Her current employer also supports her efforts.  As a company, her leadership promotes community involvement and the allow her to conduct training on the premises.

In her closing comments to me, she felt that CERT was an acronym for something that hasn’t been widely promoted.  As she said, it’s one of FEMA’s best kept secrets.  By reading this blog, she hopes other communities will take advantages of  CERT training as long as it’s available.

More pictures from the National Guard Museum

And finally, let me leave you with these pictures of the exhibits inside the Kansas National Guard Museum.

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