Do you know what to do if you or a family member is confronted with an emergency? 

A free CPR class at the Emergency Preparedness Fair on Saturday afternoon. Credit: Brook Redemann

Seconds matter and planning in advance is key. The Evanston Fire Department’s Office of Emergency Management held its first emergency preparedness fair at the Robert Crown Community Center Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23 to help residents prepare for all types of emergencies.

Amid a steady stream of attendees perusing tabletop displays from a variety of city and non-profit organizations and companies, one of the first presentations was by Evanston Police Department Officer Brian Rust on the topic of ALICE Training.

ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. Developed by two police officers in 2000, it is, according to the Navigate 360 website, “a trauma-informed approach to safety training” that hinges on the belief that “individuals should be prepared for active shooter events and empowered to make their own life-saving decisions.”

Rust is certified in ALICE Training. He is currently working with the EPD to train several other city departments that expressed interest in the training philosophy. “Interest increased after Highland Park,” Rust said. The main point he emphasized to the group on Saturday was for people to pay attention to the situational awareness of their surroundings.

Officer Jason Nelson (left) assists Rust with an ALICE training presentation at the EFD Emergency Preparedness Fair. ALICE training prepares the public for active shooter threats. Credit: Ryan Glew

“There is no rulebook. We want people to make good decisions, informed decisions, and to feel empowered to trust their instincts so they are able to get away from the dangerous environment,” said Rust.

He also shared research that showed most active shooter incidents are over within five minutes, well before most law enforcement officers will be on the scene. 

He also emphasized that the acronym doesn’t mean that people need to follow the steps in order. If someone recognizes (alert) a situation is dangerous and there is an opportunity to leave (evacuate), then they should take it. Anything that can buy time and allow you to get away will increase the likelihood of survival.

Rust led the discussion by asking questions of the attendees, asking them what they would do in a particular situation. He talked about how to manage the adrenalin rush that comes in an emergency. Deep breathing, so-called balloon breathing, can help regulate heart rate, Rush said.

One preparation suggestion is to pre-load a few important numbers in your cell phone. Everyone knows 911, but do you know the number for EPD’s service desk? It’s 847-866-5000, x0. 

Free CPR Classes

Free CPR classes were offered throughout the day in both English and Spanish. Fire Apparatus Operator Jennifer Ceriale, one of the course instructors, has been responsible for the EFD’s CPR program for the past decade.

In that time, thousands of people in and around Evanston have been trained in CPR. The instructors offer monthly programs at Fire Department headquarters, which are open to the public. 

In Illinois, CPR training and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) is a required component of every high school curriculum since 2014 with the passage of House Bill 3724, also known as the Lauren Laman Bill.

A free CPR class at the Emergency Preparedness Fair on Saturday afternoon. Credit: Brook Redemann

The program offered at the fair “is called the friends and family CPR class, which is not a certifying class, but it gives you all the information and all the tools you need to do CPR,” said Ceriale.  Anyone aged 10 and older can learn how to do it. 

“The goal of the program is really to get as many people people trained in CPR as we possibly can. And I make the joke that, you know, the more people we train, the greater the chances are that I live longer, right?” Ceriale said.

About 50 people took the free CPR class Saturday and more were trained on Sunday, in both English and Spanish.

Does she believe that providing people with CPR training will save lives? 

“Oh, definitely, 100%!,” Ceriale responded unhesitatingly.

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

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