Community CERTs Build Confidence!

One week. 47 teenagers. A tight-knit community. And one question: How confident are you in discussing emergency preparedness with your family, friends, and neighbors? The answer was relatively low.

Critical Ops led the eager group of learners in Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT) and cultural resiliency training. Lessons were short and impactful, lasting between fifteen and thirty minutes, pairing instruction with practical exercise and teambuilding games to capture the limited attention of teens. The variety of hands-on activities supported different learning styles, increasing the teens’ enthusiasm and engagement in a subject often perceived as overwhelming and threatening. Participants were challenged to react quickly, explore their creative minds, and work with individuals they didn’t know. Overcoming obstacles led to mastery of skills and an increase in leadership and decision-making.

The Marco Program was used to identify knowledge gaps to customize delivery on-site, allowing the sessions to evolve with the needs of the participants. Incremental changes to the outlined curriculum maximized the conversations and made the information more relevant. Facilitators kept the energy level high, keeping participants on their toes, introducing new elements and scaling up the activities to build on competencies throughout the week.

Questions in the Marco Program have an open-ended structure, allowing participants to approach the issue with solutions and ideas from their diverse perspectives. Participants evaluated their current practices and compared them to goals to create a roadmap toward success, giving them ownership of the process. To supplement lessons, participants evaluated written materials ranging from children’s books to government manuals, noting what they could apply to their community, as well as what they learned.

Local firefighters attended to allow participants real-life experience using a fire extinguisher to put out a controlled flame. Recently, three home fires had a devastating impact on one nearby neighborhood, so understanding how to use this tool provided practical rehearsal for all attendees.

There were no spectators on the sidelines. Facilitators and mentors moved among the groups to listen to the exchanges, as well as offer suggestions to springboard ideas. Tribal members and first responders offered their insight. The multi-generational instructor base (local and virtual) resulted in a whole community approach to the material where all voices could be considered. This helped the groups address concerns in a way that is relevant to them, so they will be able to branch out to influence other individuals. A unified effort changed the culture at a fundamental level.

At the conclusion of the event, the same question was asked. Responses indicated 40% increase in the teens’ confidence to promote preparedness within the Tulalip Tribal Community. All attendees received their official certifications as CERT team members, nearly doubling the size of the current team! As part of the youth development workforce internship, participants will transition skills and lessons learned to the workplace through the Gave Back Challenge to continue to improve readiness. The teens far outlasted us with their tenacity and willingness to give the experience their best effort. We needed to rest after all that intensity!


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