Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In disasters, River Ridge High group trained to be cool as cucumbers


“If it's sticky and it's not yours, do not touch it."

That was the command from Bill Rickert as he peppered a young crop of students with proper hygiene and sterilization techniques for dealing with a medical emergency in the field.

The first rule of thumb, Rickert said, "is to protect yourself."

Since 1998, Rickert has been training adults to help themselves and their neighbors in a disaster that could overwhelm first responders. As an instructor for the Pasco County Community Emergency Response Team Program, or CERT, he has certified about 900 regular folks, teaching them the ins and outs of fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations — skills that might be needed if you can't get through to a 911 dispatcher after a devastating tornado or hurricane.

Last week, Rickert was getting ready to churn out his first batch of teen CERT members, thanks in large part to Amanda Becker, a River Ridge High senior who had the idea for the teen pilot program and recruited fellow students to take part.

Amanda, who helps to lead the school's Future Business Leaders of America program, had heard all about the emergency response program during the FBLA District XI Leadership Conference in October. The guest speaker, Emily Meyer, a River Ridge graduate and former FBLA state president who now works as a consultant for the state Division of Emergency Management, spoke about the program. Amanda, who was looking for a subject to fulfill the requirement of senior project and FBLA project, was intrigued.

She called Pasco County CERT to ask about the possibility of training students. That got the ball rolling.

Last week, 15 River Ridge High students completed their last class, reviewing the criteria for setting up medical treatment areas, doing head-to-toe medical assessments and attending to basic treatments for burns, fractures and such. Students were also scheduled to take part in a tornado disaster exercise Saturday that would further test their knowledge and their ability to deal with an emergency.

"The main thing is to get them to know what to do in a real situation," Richert said. "We're not looking to make heroes here. The main thing is to get them to know what's wrong in a real situation — to know when something's too big to handle (that) they should stay away from it."

"This is a good bunch," he said. They're pretty attentive. They all want to learn."

"It's been fun," said Michael Roof, 15, who hopes to become a U.S. Army Ranger after high school. "There's been lots of useful information that I know I'll use in my future military career."

"It's been great," said Amanda, 18. "We've learned things like search and rescue — how to go into a damaged building without getting hurt, how to carry patients out. We're like the test group to see how it goes."

Just how the teen CERT members will be put to use remains to be seen, said Kalah Mueller, the emergency management coordinator for the project.

"We wanted to see how this worked out. Typically there are some kinks, as there are with any pilot program," Mueller said.

She noted that most of the adults who have earned certification are members of homeowners associations who would work together in specific communities. "The teens are widely dispersed in different neighborhoods," she said, "so we're not sure how we would activate them."

At the very least, Mueller said, "They'd be able to help out their own families. In the event of a disaster, they'll know what to do."

In disasters, River Ridge High group trained to be cool as cucumbers 12/22/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Chasing 125: Bucs hope to hit rushing goal more often


    Ever so often, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter pulls back the curtain a bit and shares some of the stats that matter to him most as a coach.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
  2. Two Boca Ciega students arrested on charges they brought gun to high school football game


    PINELLAS PARK — Two Boca Ciega High School students were arrested for having a loaded semi-automatic handgun with them at a Friday night football game at Pinellas Park High School.

    Two Boca Ciega High School students were arrested for bringing a weapon on school property on Friday night at a high school football game at Pinellas Park High School.
  3. Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005


    It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, left, talks with coach Dirk Koetter during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  4. Crash at U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park kills one, shuts down traffic


    PINELLAS PARK — A man is dead after a crash between two cars at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19 and 70th Avenue N just after 7 a.m. Saturday.

    Pinellas Park police are investigating the death of a man during a crash on U.S. 19 early Saturday. (Pinellas Park police)
  5. Tropics watch: The latest on Harvey and what systems could hit Florida


    While Eastern and Central America monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Harvey, two tropical disturbances are moving through the Atlantic.