Today@Sam Article

Homeland Security Students Aid Runners In 100-Mile Race

March 15, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles

Security studies students Kevin Mai (left), Christopher Kelley and Bailey-Anne Kaytar provided first aid and support in last month's Rocky Raccoon Race. —Submitted Photo

Three security studies students who helped provide first aid and support for last month’s Rocky Raccoon Race, a 100-mile trail race through the woods of Huntsville State Park, are new members of the Walker County Community Emergency Response Team.

Kevin Mai, Christopher Kelley and Bailey-Anne Kaytar were three of seven members of a crisis management course in homeland security who were trained as CERT volunteers for Walker County during a two-week course in December. The program educates citizens in disaster preparedness and trains them in basic response skills including first aid, fire safety, search and rescue, damage assessment, psychological aspects of immediate disaster response, terrorism, and team organization.

These volunteers can apply those same skills during various community events. The Sam Houston State University students were among 16 local CERT volunteers who assisted runners with first aid, food, water and shelter along the looped course.

During the first shift of the two-day event, Mai and Kelley were deployed to assist a 70-year old racer who had twisted his ankle two miles from the nearest encampment. The two initially departed on a Gator side-by-side, but were stopped by thick brush and small bridges a half-mile into the course. Carrying backpacks through the woods, they hiked to the location, but could not find the distressed runner. Unknowingly, the man—33 miles into his run—had walked past them on the trail. In the debriefing, they discussed importance of communications and situational assessment.

“There were a lot of older people participating in the race,” Mai said. “We were saying we did not think we could run for 100 miles, and we felt bad comparing our fitness to theirs.”

Kelley also helped another runner who turned his ankle on twisted roots on the trail. The man was on pace to beat the course record when he fell and had to leave the race. Kaytar served on the boat that transported the injured across the lake from the remote Dam Nation station, a halfway point in the competition.

In addition to assisting runners, the trio toured the operations center for the event at the Nature Center where radio communications coordinated staff, volunteers, participants, supporters, and activities around the park. The CERT volunteers worked in shifts during the event, which started at 6 a.m. Saturday and continued through the night until Sunday afternoon. During the night, some runners experience delirium or can suffer from hypothermia if they are stranded in the woods too long.

“It has given me the opportunity to do hands-on emergency management practice,” Kaytar said. “Now, I actually have some experience in it. I am thankful for the opportunity. We were very welcomed by the group.”

Kelley said CERT provided him an opportunity to give back to the community and to train for his future career.

“I wanted to be involved in the community and I wanted to find a way I could help,” Kelley said. “I learned a few things in CERT. I am a very hands-on type of guy.”

The volunteer experience is good for students and the community.

“Being part of community-based organizations, such as CERT situates students in realistic settings, makes them appreciate local aspects of planning and resiliency building critical in homeland security studies, and exposes them to network of individuals with vast disaster management experience,” said Magdalena Denham, assistant professor in the Department of Security Studies. “In turn, the community gains linkages to the academic institution and social capital from the college. Our students are certainly valuable assets.”

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