Blinn volunteers respond to crises with courage
Imagine teaching a class full on any ordinary day when suddenly, an alert text splashes across your phone “Evacuate campus immediately.”
“What’s going on? Is there a shooter outside? Is there a bomb threat in our building?”
But perhaps the biggest question is, “Who is keeping us safe?”
The answer to that all-important question at Blinn College is the Critical Incident and Response Team (CIRT).
CIRT began as an idea on the Blinn College - Bryan campus in 1999 when Police Captain Bill May and Lab Coordinator Kim Boetger decided it was time for the College to find a better way to respond to mass emergencies.
“There was nothing here before,” May said. “I got nervous early on because it was just me, and we couldn’t evacuate the College’s largest campus. That’s when I met Kim (Boetger), and she took the program and ran with it.”
CIRT’s first task in 2001 was launching an information campaign to let local responders know about the program’s mission and what its purpose was. Boetger led the development of an online training module developed in Bryan to explain the team’s mission and formalize key safety and emergency procedures.
“We formed a team of faculty and staff volunteers and started training them in 2001,” Boetger said.
With support from administration, faculty and staff are recruited campus wide for membership in CIRT, with the goal of at least two team members coming from each building.
“We do a lot of training every month,” Boetger said. “We invite responders to our trainings, the actual people with boots on the ground. We also include organizational training that focuses on resources, logistics, planning and finances-always important if we need emergency funding for equipment.”
According to Boetger, emergency exercises, such as evacuation drills, reveal the areas that can be improved before the next drill or execution of emergency plans.
Training sessions also include guest responders from emergency response teams outside Blinn, which give trainees a broader view of emergency prevention and response.
Since its launch with a handful of members in 2001, CIRT has grown to 40 faculty and staff, each representing a portion of Bryan’s main campus, post office campus, fitness center and Blinn’s Allied Health programs located at the Texas A&M Health Science Center.