Central High School students participated in a mock tornado disaster as the final step in a program developed to train students to act in emergency situations when professional responders are unavailable immediately.

Approximately 60 students were certified after completing the event Wednesday. The certification program is a joint venture between the Central High School Health Occupation and Physical Education and the Santa Rosa County Division of Emergency Management.

"I'm very proud of how they performed," Central High School teacher Melissa Baxley said. "I thought the officers really did a great job and stepped up to the challenge, as did all of the students."

The Community Emergency Response Team program, or CERT, is a nationwide program focused on making people responsible for their own emergency response efforts, Daniel Hahn, Plans Chief for the Division of Emergency Management, said. 

"The program takes 16-20 hours to complete," Hahn said. "There's team organization, first-aid, search and rescue and psychological assessments."

The students have been certified and trained in CPR since October.

"If there was ever a situation at our school, these students could provide instant support," Baxley said.

As the program progressed, the course covered fire safety, search and seizure and triage assessments.

"The students learned how to splint injuries," Baxley said. "They also learned how to carry victims properly and get them to a safe area. They also learned how to stabilize the victim until additional support arrived."

The class at Central High School is expected to continue next year. The program has been in place at Jay High School for the past two years.

"We really hope they will join one of our established CERT teams," Hahn said of the recent graduates.

Santa Rosa County has two CERT teams in place, one in Pace and one in Navarre. The Pace CERT team has been working at the fair with parking issues and is there ready as first aid responders if necessary.