Legacy of the Rapid Response Team Program

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The American Red Cross Rapid Response Team Program

Little Rock news report about the American Red Cross Arkansas Rapid Response Team Camp.

Created by Candy Carey, CEO of the Greater Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Rapid Response Team Project caught my attention with a simple opening: What if ...?

What if a gun man walked into your cafeteria and opened fire?

What if a tornado hit your school?

What if one of your teachers fell over his desk with a heart attack?

As both a teacher and a firefighter, I was hooked. Intrigued by the possibilities.

Ms. Carey had created the camp but gave me the freedom to evolve it into so much more than she originally conceived. The camp and the related experiences with both the young people who ran the camp for me and those who attended it will forever be one of my proudest accomplishments. Not just because we were so successful in conducting excellent experiences for our campers but because the students we trained went on to save lives.

When it comes to education, you can hardly ask for a more rewarding experience than to know what you did helped make the world a little safer place to live.

Legacy of the Rapid Response Team Program

We know that at some point this year a community in the United States will be devastated by a natural or man-made disaster. Tornadoes drop out of the sky unexpectedly; flood waters envelope entire communities and earthquakes lurk beneath the Earth’s surface with the potential to destroy an entire region. Beyond the ominous threat of Mother Nature lies the destruction imposed on humanity by mankind. Accidents happen as trains derail, fires consume, vehicles collide, machines fail and workers make mistakes. Perhaps worst of all, evil people with ill intent will choose to harm others; all too often our children serving as the targets of their viciousness.

Naturally, we hope that when these tragic events occur, the best trained emergency responders armed with the best equipment available will respond quickly to mitigate damage and save lives. Experience, however, tells us this is not always the case. Far too often, the scale of the disaster is too great for the emergency resources at hand or responders and their equipment are caught up in the devastation themselves.

The #1 natural disaster in the United States is flooding. All 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods. Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high yet even just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater. Flash flooding is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. with approximately 200 deaths per year. Of those, just over 50% of these flood-related drownings are vehicle-related.

Roughly 17 million people live in what is known as Tornado Alley, an area which spans all or parts of eight states across the middle of our nation. Although it covers just 15% of the United States, this area suffered nearly 30% of all the confirmed tornadoes between 1950 and 2012 averaging 268 tornadoes per year. There were 5,587 confirmed fatalities during that period of time with 1,110 occurring in Tornado Alley. Injuries caused by tornadoes are much more numerous. For the same period, there were 64,054 injuries reported across the United States, which averages out to just over 1,000 per year. Twenty four percent of those injuries occurred in Tornado Alley. While only 2% of tornadoes were deadly nationwide, some were hugely destructive.

An average of 16,375 teenagers aged 12-19 years died in the United States every year from 1999 to 2006. The leading cause of death among teenagers was from accidents (unintentional injuries), accounting for nearly one-half of all teenage deaths. As a category of accidents, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of death to teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths.

Their names ring hollow in our hearts: Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Jonesboro and the list stretches on like that long, black train. Every year, somewhere in this country, school violence will claim the lives of our children, teachers and others in a senseless attack.

One constant that holds true in all of these situations is that with proper planning and preparation lives can be saved and suffering reduced. It is with this reality in mind that the focus of this year’s National Service Project (NSP) “Ready, Set, Plan: Emergency Planning and Preparedness” is so significant.

The untapped potential of our nation’s youth is a renewable resource waiting to be utilized in making our world a better place for all. EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology, Inc.) provides our young people an avenue to not just explore their potential but to realize the fruits of their own labor and we are all the richer for it. The student-driven, project-based focus on solving real world problems is an excellent forum for our students to step out of the classroom and into their communities to make a difference.

Teaching people to recognize the threats they face in their everyday lives and arming them with informed options empowers them to make life-saving choices that make a difference when time counts.

Unfortunately, we can’t always have the best trained emergency responders armed with the best equipment available when disaster strikes but by unleashing our students and their vast capacity for problem-solving on this issue, they will make a difference and by this time next year, we will be sharing stories about our students from across the EAST universe who made a difference in their communities by saving lives and reducing suffering as a direct result of their innovative approaches and hard work.

I have had the honor of being the state chairman for the American Red Cross Rapid Response Team Project in Arkansas for the last decade. During that time period, I have had the distinct privilege of witnessing hundreds of high school students from across our great state being trained in emergency management skills and then go on in careers in the emergency services or medical field or just into life where circumstances forced them to use their skills to help others. In case after case, I have seen first-hand what young people who are motivated, educated and dedicated can do to make a difference and it is inspiring.

My father, Harry F. Shinn, was a career educator and a volunteer firefighter who would often say, “Education is not a passive experience.” He believed that it was essential for us as educators to engage our students in their own learning because when they take ownership of it, they have pride in it and in themselves. He was right and this year’s National Service Project is an excellent example of that philosophy because it empowers our youth to make a significant contribution in using their talents and skill in helping others.

Whether it is through community education presentations, training young people in emergency response skills, collaborating with members in their community to develop shelters or warning systems, or just bringing awareness to their peers about the dangers they face and the ways to stay safe, EAST students everywhere will be changing the world for the better. John Kennedy said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

Rapid Response Team Testimonials

Rebecca Thurman: “The HARRT program is a incredible program that gives high school kids the opportunity to experience the medical world and gives them some responsibility. They learn basic first aid and CPR. I joined the program my freshman year in high school and it was one of my favorite activities in high school. I was a part of this organization until I graduated from high school and was president my senior year. Most high school students usually don’t know what they want to do with their lives when they get out of high school but the HARRT organization gave me the opportunity to experience new things that I thought I’d never do. I knew what I wanted to do with my life after high school I am currently in college about to start my 3rd year. I am attending Northwest Arkansas Community College where I am currently getting my paramedic certification and later on I plan on going to nursing school. HARRT changed my life for the better. I encourage high school kids to be a part of this program even if they don’t plan on going into the medical field it’s a good experience for them and they learn basic skills that they could use someday that could save somebody’s life.”

Anthony Blok: In my years as a member and office holder in the HARRT program I have learned many skills, lifesaving lessons, learned the benefits not just for myself but the benefit others get out of the team doing community service. Also, the leadership qualities that I learned while being part of HARRT, whether it be doing training or participating in the team camps has helped me succeed in college, jobs, and my personal life. The Rapid Response Team Camp is a GREAT way for kids and adults to learn the skills in mapping, search and rescue, leadership, community service, etc. All in all, the HARRT program is a wonderful and life changing program that has helped and benefited me greatly and I appreciate Mr. KC Shinn for founding this program. All the hard work and dedication he has put into this program and helping it grow shows a lot about his character and how his dedication pays off. I would not have had another person head this program.

Kendra Westbrook: It is an awesome program ..... I love volunteering for it i will stay in it forever if I can !!! When I have kids they will be in this program it just helped me and if I got to meet new people . It is a really good program I hope it gets better and bigger more events.

Gabriella Cuellar: Rapid Response Camp has been one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. Not only did I meet adults who wanted to make a difference in the community, but kids my own age, kids from every area of Arkansas. These kids have become some of my best friends and I am honored to have shared this experience with them. The unique thing about the Rapid Response program is you don't just learn a set of life-saving skills but the fact that you are mentally, physically, and emotionally challenged. As much as I wanted to give up during some of the difficult activities (especially in the summer heat), defeating the tasks at hand was such an accomplishment and the knowledge gained was an incredible award. This camp helped me discover things about myself I never knew. It instilled a new confidence in me that didn't seem possible. Most of all, it allowed me to learn and practice CPR and First Aid skills as well as develop the courage to use these skills. These skills have proven useful in the everyday cuts and bruises and will prove useful in the event of a disaster. 

AJ Templeton: HARRT has made and extreme impact on my life through all the lessons we learned. I really didn’t think HARRT was really going to do anything for me besides look good on a college resume. Being in the Marine Corps I have noticed how much better leadership I have for my fellow marines. I have the confidence so if anyone of my marines go down fighting for our freedom I know I can help save him, and not lose a fellow marine. I loved being a part of the community service through HARRT. I find myself wanting to volunteer out here not just because I’m a marine, but because of how I was raised and the people in HARRT. Might not be perfect, but i hoped it helped.


LCpl Templeton USMC 

Katie Harvey: Oh wow where to begin. I started HARRT in the middle of my freshman year of high school. I joined because earlier that year my grandma passed away. I saw how hard the paramedics fought to save her life even though they didn't even know her. From that day on my dream was to become a paramedic. The first meeting I went to I loved it. It was so great to be part of such an awesome team that made differences in people’s lives. The fact that we could help someone in need, it made me feel like I was really doing something worthy in my life. I was taught how to save someone's life and you can't imagine what a great feeling that is. Being in HARRT made my life have more meaning to it and to believe that one person can make a huge difference. It helped me see something good come from my grandma's death instead of just dwelling in sorrow if that makes sense. It's really hard to really put into words what HARRT has done to my life. Because of it I feel like I've done something really worth doing in my life and I'm proud of it. It's helped make me the person I am today.

Shanna Darling: The Rapid Response Camp is like no other, amazing, and life changing! By being part of the Rapid Response team I was able to learn important life saving skills I would not have been able to learn in any other way. Having the ability to perform first-aid and CPR has made my life easier and given me more opportunities. The "dreaded" last day scenario way a blast, giving me a chance to put what I'd learned to use, making it easier to response in real life situations. I also love the friendship I made at camp. Although I have not been able to attend at Rapid Response Camp in about two years I have stayed close with friends I made at the camp. Learning from people my age made things more understandable, and keeping in touch with them since, I'm able to still learn from them. This camp was so much fun and life changing, learning important life saving skills that inspired me to look farther into a medical career. I would totally recommended Rapid Response Camp to others and would love to attend another camp, to learn and advance my skills more, my self.  

Christian Davis: It has showed me that other people’s life is just important as mine. Now I’m more alert for disasters and people’s health. I would want to be a blue shirt one day...

The Last Rapid Response Team Camp

Every summer, for over 16 years, the Rapid Response Team Camp trained students how to save lives and help people when in need. Teenagers from across the state spent a week learning leadership skills, Mass Care and Shelter Operations, the Incident Command System, CPR, AED, 1st Aid, Basic Search and Rescue Techniques, Land Navigation, and a variety of problem-solving skills. The following link will take you to a video explaining how it unfolded and its impact on those who participated.

2015 was the last Rapid Response Team Camp