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Some of our alumni might remember the original Covenant fire station down at Shadowlands which became home to members of Covenant’s volunteer fire department. Alumni like Sergeant Stephen Wheeles ’01 began their careers in emergency response and law enforcement as part of Covenant’s emergency response team. The station was retired in the early 2000s, but several years later, Covenant saw a need for a wider range of emergency response capabilities. Thus the Covenant Responders program was eventually reinitiated as a part of the Safety and Security work study.
Consisting of seven students, Covenant’s current responder unit, Squad Three, benefits from supportive leadership from four alumni, various board members, and our dean of records, Rodney Miller. Evan Elliot ’21 and Mason Harmon ’23 lead the students on campus.
Leon Ferraez ’20 and current Covenant Responder Katherine Horn ’23 sat down to discuss what the program is up to these days. The team trains under the guidance of the West Brow fire department for varying periods of time depending on the commitment of the student. The minimum is three weeks for a CPR class and training to support firefighters in non-emergency situations (including proper gear maintenance and other work).
In order to assist with or handle emergencies, a student must go through a three-month intensive training. Katherine said the training could be tough, especially when they worked with live fires, but the firefighters and other mentors work very closely with students so that they know how to handle themselves in the situations presented. Covenant Responders can also take specialty classes for more diverse training. Leon said, “There are specialties, including fire and medical, and it is completely up to the student responder. Medical is the more popular one since they have more calls. Katherine has a specialty in fire. They can also go to a Georgia fire academy to get any specialization they want, like rope, technical,or hazmat.”
Each student on the team downloads an app and is given a pager so they are notified when there is an emergency. The app, Active 911, allows Mason to text the students details about emergencies. They do respond to emergencies that arise during class, but the program has a GPA requirement and responders are not allowed to leave during an exam of any kind.
Currently, the Covenant Responders are working to increase their membership, but another big step forward is updating on-campus gear and acquiring a new emergency vehicle for the program. This would allow them to respond quickly to more emergencies. When asked about the future growth of the program Leon responded that “it’s not a club, it just doesn’t fit in that scope, but we do put up a table at the club fair… Mason is our main coordinator getting more people involved. We want to work on outreach in a more official capacity, maybe with a safety class on campus.”