Security Studies Student Shines as CERT Volunteer

Stepping Up

Security Studies Student John Watkins II got to put his CERT training to the test during Hurricane Harvey.

Last semester, graduate student John Watkins II was certified as a Citizen Emergency Response Team Member (CERT) for Walker County as part of his Crisis Management class. He put his training to good use during Hurricane Harvey.

In his position as radio logistics coordinator, Watkins worked two 12-hour shifts keeping track of volunteers and personnel at the Emergency Operations Center, coordinating efforts to get supplies to emergency shelters, and uniting people with pets left during the disaster in Walker County. Before the storm, he also spent 7 hours as a runner getting needed supplies, such as cots and food, to the shelter to assist evacuees from the storm.

“People were actually willing to help,” said Watkins. “There were people of all races helping because the people in the shelter didn’t have a home, and we wanted them to be comfortable. We were going to make this their home while they were here.”

As a student in a crisis management course, Watkins became part of the volunteer corps in Walker County trained to response to disasters, such as tornados, floods, wildfire, hurricanes or a terrorist attack. The CERT course teaches basic disaster preparedness skills in fire safety, search and rescue, team organization and medical operations.

Watkins used those skills and more during his time at the Walker County Emergency Operations Office. Under the direction of Butch Davis, Watkins logged in volunteers and employees coming to or leaving from the shelter and helped coordinate the needs of 200 evacuees.

“They would need cots and once we had to get a hospital bed,” said Watkins. “We needed cleaning supplies and Raid®. They also needed diapers, baby wipes, laundry detergent, and toilet paper. We even had requests for adult coloring book and crayons.”

Watkins was also in charge of reuniting pets and their owners. Although the shelter did not allow pets, a local veterinarian agreed to temporarily house those brought to the shelter. In addition, animal control rescued animals abandoned in the storm. Watkins’ job was to make sure the right pet went back to the right owner.

Throughout his experience, Watkins said he was awed by the ability of everyone to work together.

“We had people from high school, some were my age and others were older,” said Watkins. “People stopping what they were doing to help others.”

Member of The Texas State University System