SAN MARCOS / COPPERAS COVE, Texas (FOX 44) – Copperas Cove High School senior Elise Fuselier methodically evaluated her patient, checking for vital signs to determine her next step in ensuring the safety of the person she encountered in the mock disaster situation.

Fuselier was one of eight Copperas Cove ISD students selected to attend the Texas School Safety Center’s Emergency Preparedness Camp. The district was chosen on scholarship by the university to attend the camp – with school counselors BrendaLiz Gomez and Yoshenobia Harris.

Copperas Cove High School senior Elise Fuselier practices basic disaster response skills at the Texas School Safety Center’s youth emergency preparedness training. CCISD students and staff received their Community Emergency Response Team certifications. (Courtesy: Copperas Cove ISD)

“I not only learned how to effectively assist those in need, but I also learned the importance of working together to assist the public,” Fuselier said. “In a natural disaster, there are several types of people and there are various ways people react to the problems surrounding them. It is very important to understand how to assist them which I learned at the camp. All of the speakers taught different skills that I can utilize in my school and in my community in the event of an emergency.”

All camp participants, including the school counselors, received FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team basic training to handle a variety of hazards which might impact their area, and in basic disaster response skills.

This training included instruction on fire safety, disaster medical operations, search and rescue, disaster psychology, disaster preparedness, CERT organization, and terrorism. In addition to classroom-based lessons, participants were given ample opportunity to practice their skills through hands-on activities, tabletop discussions, and exercises.

Copperas Cove High School students practice removing a person who is unable to walk from a disaster area during the Texas School Safety Center’s youth emergency preparedness training. CCISD students and staff received their Community Emergency Response Team certifications. (Courtesy: Copperas Cove ISD)

“Some natural disasters can be predicted, giving schools enough warning to evacuate or take other safety precautions, but others can happen unexpectedly or go through rapid changes that suddenly put a school in danger. The first step schools should take in preparing for these types of emergencies is to train students and staff to work together to ensure the safety of all,” Coryell County Judge Roger Miller wrote in letter of support for CCISD students to attend the camp on scholarship. “Our area has been particularly affected recently by wildfires and severe tornadic weather. Having the additional support of a strong youth team trained in emergency preparedness would have been a true benefit to our local communities.”

CCISD students will develop a community project during the next school year based on the specific needs of the school district and the community regarding emergency preparedness.

Copperas Cove High School Counselor BrendaLiz Gomez allows Copperas Cove High School freshman Jacob Caal to practice dressing a mock wound on her left arm as part of the emergency preparedness training the students and staff received at the Texas School Safety Center’s youth emergency preparedness training. CCISD students and staff received their Community Emergency Response Team certifications. (Courtesy: Copperas Cove ISD)

Copperas Cove Deputy Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Gary Young cited numerous incidents in the community which resulted in the issuance of disaster declarations by the city mayor or Texas governor.

“We quickly realized that the high school-aged members of our community were very helpful in resolving our disasters. We identified that had our youth experienced the proper training before the catastrophes, their effectiveness could have been multiplied many times over,” Young said. “Targeting our high school age population enables our community to include persons ready to get involved and who desire to be ‘disaster ready.’”