Regina Catholic Education Center first eastern Iowa school to take part in national teen emergency program

Regina Catholic Education Center, has rolled out its collaborative teen CERT program with Johnson County EMA to teach high schoolers disaster preparedness.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Johnson County Deputy Director of Emergency Management Agency Travis Beckman speaks during a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class at Regina Catholic Education Center on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. The class is one of the first in Iowa and hopes to develop leadership and first responder skills for high schoolers.

Meg Doster, News Reporter

The Regina Catholic Education Center is training high school students in emergency skills, such as first aid and disaster preparation, in a collaborative program with the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency.

Part of a national program through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Regina Community Emergency Response Team program is training 16 high school students. Regina is the first school in Iowa to have this program.

The Community Emergency Response Team is a program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The program “educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations,” according to the FEMA website.

Deputy Director of Johnson County Emergency Management Agency Travis Beckman, the coordinator for the Regina Federal Emergency Management Agency program, is one of the instructors for the course.

“I brought the idea of teen CERT within Regina to them, and how it could supplement their emergency operations plan,” Beckman said. “I got a whole lot of buy-in as I explained how they could be a support factor during emergencies within the school.”

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The Regina Community Emergency Response Team project is in its first weeks, but the project was first developed in 2018. By the time it was ready to recruit students, the program was delayed because of COVID-19.

Students who will complete this year’s Community Emergency Response Team programming will also be able to attend future Regina certification programs, as long as they are still enrolled in the school.

Beckman said the information provided will change enough each year, so returning students will be able to learn new things.

“A lot of the skill sets [are] designed by FEMA intentionally this way … to take back to your own household, take back to your neighborhood, and take to your place of employment,” said Andy Cutter, Johnson County Community Emergency Response Team lead and Regina Board of Education member. “You have those skills in everything from first aid, search and rescue disaster response, flood mitigation, [to] preparedness.”

Beckman said students only need to go through the course once to obtain a Community Emergency Response Team certification.

The 16 students are in grades 10-12 and were approved by the administrative board based on recommendations from faculty, Cutter said.

Lynne Zoulek, Regina’s guidance counselor, said faculty and administration were enthusiastic about the program and are already planning to continue the Regina Community Emergency Response Team.

Beckman said the program will train its 16 students to be leaders in the Iowa City community.

“It’s going to provide them skills that not every high schooler has,” he said.

The nine-session program started Sept. 22 and ends Nov. 5.

Beckman said that he has extended invitations to eastern Iowa schools to set up a CERT certification program like what’s being done with the Regina students.

“There is a lot of pride with the students that are chosen,” Zoulek said. “They are excited to be in the program. Travis gave them some badges last week, and a few of them were like, ‘Can we wear these at school all the time?’”