BMCC recently held a special recognition luncheon in Richard Harris Terrace to honor the college’s new emergency volunteers, including those who assisted last October during Hurricane Sandy.
“I marvel at the dedication, especially of those who stayed overnight and worked 24/7 to get our campus back up and running,” said BMCC President Antonio Pérez, speaking to the packed room.
Scott Anderson, VP for Administration and Planning, also expressed appreciation for BMCC’s emergency-trained volunteers and staff.
“We have over 175 volunteer fire wardens, and that’s an incredible achievement for any college,” he said. “We also have 98 individuals who recently completed the C-CERT training. There’s no other college in New York that has so many people trained to safeguard their campus community during a disaster.”
CUNY’s only free CPR training
“We are the only CUNY campus that trains faculty, students and staff in how to administer CPR,” said Edwin Moss, BMCC’s Director of Public Safety. “We’ve actually saved a life already on campus because this training was in place, and two students have saved lives in their communities.”
Also, says Moss, “we train volunteers to act as fire wardens, and they are instrumental in an evacuation, making sure that it is orderly and safe.”
While emergency preparedness is mandatory for some BMCC employees, many undergo the training to personally contribute to a safer campus.
“I took the CPR training because I think it is important to be ready for any emergency,” says Victor Nkansah, a campus security assistant in the Public Safety Department. “We are close to the public, and we sometimes encounter students with some kind of health problem, who need our assistance.”
BMCC has also trained about 100 FEMA-certified, C-CERT (Campus Community Emergency Response Team), volunteers.
“They ensure that the college can sustain itself in an emergency for at least three days,” says Moss.
“They’re responsible for evacuation from compromised areas, and they learn emergency responses such as ‘cribbing’, which is finding and extricating people who might be trapped, for example, by falling debris.”
Hurricane Sandy hits
“All this training kicked in, when we were gearing up for Hurricane Sandy last October,” says Ed Moss.
“We prepared the building as much as possible. We’re in Zone A, an evacuation area, yet staff remained in the building to deal with the damage,” he says. “Thanks to their efforts around the clock, we were able to sustain and reopen the building.”
During that time, the basement of BMCC’s main campus building at 199 Chambers Street was flooded with four feet of water, knocking out electrical and other systems.
“I don’t think any of us had even seen a surge like we had in that storm, with the Hudson River crossing over the West Side Highway to our campus,” Moss says, “but fortunately, we were as ready for it as possible.”
Hands-on C-CERT training
“We were the first CUNY campus to teach FEMA-sponsored C-CERT or Community College Campus Emergency Training,” says Lenny Zavalas, BMCC Specialist for Public Safety.
The 3-day classroom course culminates in an online certification exam.
“The training is very hands-on,” Zavalas says. “We simulate shelter-in-place scenarios, and situations where people might have to ‘triangulate’—move through an area where there is little or no visibility—to find someone needing help.”
The course also utilizes Bullex equipment that safely creates a fire indoors for training purposes, and graduates of the training are provided with gloves, goggles and other items, Zavalas says, “enabling them to transition through an unstable building.”
C-CERT volunteers assist the injured and secure the safety of an area until first responders arrive on the scene, he explains, and each trainee receives a “go bag” including a miniature sledge hammer, helmet, water, a radio, and other items.
“We recently upgraded the flashlights in our go-bags to the non-sparking type like the NYPD uses,” says Zavalas. “Little by little, we’re improving the ‘go bag’.”
As a result of these efforts, BMCC has almost 80 current, C-CERT-trained individuals, and “we have C-CERT-trained individuals on the BMCC campus at any given time, 24/7,” he says.
“Our students were so jazzed.”
VP Scott Anderson initiated the first wave of CPR training at BMCC.
“I look at the numbers,” he says. “What’s the most likely emergency situation to happen on campus? It’s always something like ‘trip-and-fall’, or a health emergency where a person might be diabetic or have high blood pressure, or not even know they have heart disease.”
The training, which is free, is a composite of three modules, he explains: CPR, AED [Automatic External Defibrillator] and First Aid.
“Our first class that took the CPR training was about five semesters ago,” he adds. “The students were so jazzed. They brought their husbands and wives and parents to the completion ceremony, and there was all this cheering when they got their certificate.”
Knowing CPR and other emergency responses “is something the students can take back to their church, back to their homes,” Anderson says. “That’s what it’s all about, having a citizenry that can help each other, not just on campus, but in their communities.”
Another benefit, says Ed Moss, is that when students undergo the emergency training, "it fosters a relationship between public safety and the college community. It breaks down that barrier that students might feel, between them and the public safety staff that is there to protect them.”