10-year-old girl completes CERT training

The CERT course teaches citizens in the county and surrounding areas how to respond when disasters like fires, floods and tornadoes strike

By Kimberly Barker
Miami News-Record

MIAMI, Okla. — Ten-year-old Jarin Cox may be small in stature, but she's already stepping up in big ways. Late last month Jarin became what is believed to be the youngest certified member of the Community Emergency Response Team in the entire state.

Oklahoma Emergency Response Team, a Disabled Veteran 501(c) 3 organization, is an all-volunteer team of Oklahoma citizens and veterans that help respond to disasters within the state and assist in recovery operations. OKERT offers CERT courses multiple times a year and is free of charge.

With her parents' permission, Jarin attended and completed the CERT course offered on Jan. 27 to 29 in Commerce.

The CERT course teaches citizens in the county and surrounding areas how to respond when disasters like fires, floods and tornadoes strike. The class is designed to give students the necessary training and skills to truly help when communities face an emergency event.

Air Force veteran Rick Aldridge, Chief Executive Officer of OKERT, founded the non-profit organization in 2014. Aldridge said this was the first time he has ever had someone as young as Jarin take the class and was a little skeptical, at first.

"When you have 15 adults in there and then a 10-year-old, and the course content itself, you get a little nervous and if it's the right thing to do, but within the first 10 minutes, it was pretty clear that she was not going to have any problem with the class at all," Aldridge said. "She had a very open-minded attitude. She was very knowledgeable already of what was going on and was very motivated to learn."

Certified instructors from Broken Arrow CERT came and taught the course and Jarin attended all two and a half days.

"People were nice, I got to learn a bunch of stuff, and it was fun," Jarin said. "My favorite part was (using) the fire extinguisher."

According to Aldridge, the young girl blended right into the class.

"She was not intimidated by adults at all, which was very good," Aldridge said. "She wasn't obnoxious or anything like that. She jumped right into conversations, answered questions and was just a regular student."

Aldridge said that even adults have struggled with portions of the class but not Jarin, who plunged right in, eagerly. Jarin is now statewide and nationally certified in basic emergency response training.

"First and foremost, I think making it through the class itself was an absolutely big accomplishment, considering they have to learn the search and rescue and all of those things," Aldridge said. "There are some heavy tasks that have to be done like victim removal.

"She was able to get certified, which is incredible," he added. "We think, and we'll find out Monday, that she is the youngest student in the state. She's very motivated in taking the information back to her school and putting on a presentation for her school."

Jarin is a fourth grader at Nichols Upper Elementary and asked for a slot time to give her peers an educational lesson on CERT. Her teacher, Nicolett Ruppert, allowed her to share what she had learned with the class.

"We did triage," Jarin said. "I told half the class to lay down and the other half to respond. I told one of my friends to pretend like she fell off her bike and broke her arm. We made her a stint. I thought the class acted pretty loco, though. They all failed."

Most of Jarin's immediate family attended the class with her, both her parents and her two older siblings, Ty, 12 and Spirit, 14. Only the youngest daughter, Hope, 2, could not attend.

"It was even more interesting watching the 10-year-old speak out as much as she did because her other siblings were a bit older than she was," Aldridge said. "She led the charge."

Carol, the mother, said the class was fun and inspirational for the whole family.

"I think it empowers the citizens to take care of themselves and not rely solely on responders," Carol said. "Responders can't go everywhere all at once, and if you know how to save a life and get them the help they need, then it really helps them out. I know people who responded to the Joplin tornado and they were not prepared. They showed up in flip flops and shorts to clean up broken glass."

Carol said Jarin was the most excited out of everyone in the family to take the course.

"She loved doing the fire extinguisher and got to put a fire out," Carol said. "She actually did it multiple times because everyone got a kick out her doing it."

According to her mother, Jarin had wished for some very interesting items for Christmas last year. She asked for a bow and arrow, a jackhammer, a survival guide and a preacher's stand, which are not your average 10-year-old requests.

"She has asked for a sledgehammer since she was about 5 years old," Carol said laughing.

The family found her Christmas list to be hysterical and even shared it on Facebook, which got hundreds of shares and comments.

"I had asked for a jackhammer, but I got a [three pound] sledgehammer," Jarin said. "I also got a survival book. I've been reading a book called 'My Side of the Mountain' and it's about a boy who runs away from home and he survives off the land. That's why I wanted to take [CERT]."

"My Side of the Mountain" interested her because of the survival skills and how the boy ran away. Her mother said Jarin has the top reading level in her class.

"I want to be prepared if a disaster strikes and in case my family goes psycho," Jarin said jokingly.

Along with putting out a fire, Carol said Jarin also enjoyed the search and rescue scenario.

"We learned how to check the victims to see what kind of injury they had and see if they needed splinted before we moved them and what to do in that situation," Carol said. "She had fun with it. She was very involved."

"I learned how to do searches, set up a triage, do body checks, check for breathing and how to label if they were dead," Jarin said.

Before taking the class, Jarin already knew how to apply stints and bandages.

"She had been studying it in her survival skills book," Carol said.

"I already know how to make aspirin tea out of willow bark, too," Jarin said proudly.

Jarin said it feels awesome to be a certified emergency responder and received a backpack of basic tools needed when responding to a disaster. The bag includes items like a reflective vest, helmet, a flashlight, gloves, goggles and a first aid kit.

"Everyone got one of those backpacks, and we plan to keep ours ready to go in case of an emergency," Carol said.

Aldridge said they will soon be offering a CERT train-to-trainer course, which will teach OKERT members to be certified instructors in order to train others. He is currently debating whether he will have Jarin in the class or not.

"If not this class, then certainly the next class we put on, so we can look at getting her to be a certified instructor for youth programs," Aldridge said. "We're looking forward to her being able to get out to the schools and hopefully she can start teaching the younger kids on the basic information, which would be great coming from a 10-year-old versus an adult."

Even if she doesn't end up being the youngest CERT member in the state, Aldridge said he has very high hopes for Jarin in the future and is proud of her accomplishments.

"It's amazing at her grasp of the material at such a young age," Aldridge said. "Obviously, as she matures in age, that whole understanding of even more of the difficult material and then being able to apply the material will be exceptional. In all of my understanding of her so far, this is just something she wants to pursue as a goal in life, anyway. We're looking at a potential new, life-long first responder, no matter what she gets into, whether it's fire, EMS, police or if she wants to do emergency management work."

OKERT will be offering another CERT basic course in mid-March and will again be free to the public. To register for the course, contact Aldridge at raldridge60@yahoo.com or 918-541-6056.

Copyright 2017 Miami News-Record

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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