Government Police/Fire Schools

Teen CERT Program Will Return to West Hartford

Retired Fire Department Capt. Jeff Dufresne instructs students in the Teen CERT Program how to properly use a fire extinguisher. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

West Hartford Public Schools and the West Hartford Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will hold another training program this summer.

By Ronni Newton

Training for teens in disaster preparedness and emergency response – through a program that is also able to fulfill their “mastery experience” graduation requirement, will return to West Hartford this summer.

West Hartford Public Schools and West Hartford’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will again offer a Teen CERT training program during the first session of summer school, from June 21-30, 2023.

In addition to completing their mastery experience requirement, participants will receive a Community Emergency Response Team certificate, said Office of Emergency Management Deputy Director and CERT leader Bob McCue. The program will be taught by a certified West Hartford Public Schools teacher as well as two West Hartford CERT instructors.

Connecticut’s “Mastery-Based Learning,” as described by the State Department of Education, emphasizes college and career readiness and is student-centered, empowering students to take ownership of projects based on their own interests. Many types of mastery experiences can be used to satisfy the graduation requirement, which in West Hartford corresponds to the district’s “Vision of the Graduate.” Mastery projects include demonstration of collaboration, effective communication, inquiry and critical thinking, and problem solving and creativity.

“This class is a mix of classroom and hands-on learning,” McCue said. “Students will earn their American Heart Association Heart Saver certificate, and learn about fire safety, emergency preparedness, disaster psychology, and light search and rescue.”

Participants in Teen CERT in 2022 practice hands-only CPR under the guidance of instructor Bob Hilborn. Courtesy photo

Last year’s syllabus listed “How to prepare for zombie apocalypse” as the description of the planned activity for day No. 1, and although students likely won’t be slaying zombies anytime soon – if that’s even possible – they will complete the program equipped to assist with disaster preparedness and emergency response in a variety of scenarios.

Just like the CERT training for adults, the eight sessions will include hands-on training in CPR, fire safety, search and rescue, first aid, and disaster psychology led by the West Hartford Fire Department, West Hartford Police Department, Office of Emergency Management, and West Hartford Animal Control. Topics last year included terrorism and active shooter situations, as well as demonstrations of equipment in police Emergency Support Unit (aka SWAT) vehicles and equipment on fire apparatus including items used by firefighter/paramedics.

A Teen CERT participant finds one of the “children” hiding under a ramp. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)


“The goal of the class is not only to fulfill the mastery requirement, but to better prepare students to prepare to handle many types of emergency situations,” said McCue.

For their final practical in 2022, the class eagerly engaged in activities that included learning to actually deploy fire extinguishers (in the parking lot), and conducting searches inside a building and on the grounds for “missing persons” in accordance with a variety of scenarios the leaders provided.

The 2023 class will be held from June 21 until June 30, and will run from 8 a.m. until noon. The class is limited to 30 students, and those interested are urged to sign up as soon as possible. The class fee is $199 and can be paid online, by mail or in-person.

For more information including the link to registration, click here and choose “Current WHPS students portal” from the red box on the left.

More about the program, including photos of last year’s activities, can also be found here.

One of the hands-on activities for students in the Teen CERT program was spraying water from a fire hose. Courtesy of Bob McCue (we-ha.com file photo)

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