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09/01/2005 07:00:00

Caltech Group to Aid Hurricane Victims

PASADENA, Calif.--Several students at the California Institute of Technology and a health advocate instructor at the student health center have departed to Southern Louisiana and Mississippi to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

According to Mark Stapf, who teaches a course at Caltech that covers emergency response, he and at least three students were to fly to Houston Thursday, and afterward were to be deployed by Red Cross officials to areas where they will work directly with those impacted by the hurricane.

"God knows where they will find us after we leave Houston, but speaking for myself, I'll probably be working in a shelter with victims to distribute food and clothing."

The initial phase of the emergency response is called "mass care," Stapf explains, and is focused on the most urgent and most immediate needs. Stapf is trained to provide family services, and later he will work with individuals and families on a one-on-one basis.

Stapf's Health Advocate Program at Caltech is well suited to the task of providing emergency aid to victims of natural disasters, although its primary purpose is "to provide Caltech undergraduate students with training to become qualified 'advocates' for their fellow students' emotional and physical health," according to the health center's Web page at Student volunteers are trained in first aid in order to attend to various medical problems. In completing the course , the students earn certification at the First Responder level.

They also receive emergency certifications from the Red Cross. Those who will be traveling to the Deep South today are taking a crash course to prepare them for the work ahead.

"These students volunteer their time to help other students at Caltech, and they've stepped forward and are willing to help out their fellow Americans in a time of need," Stapf says. For interviews, Stapf can be reached on his cell phone at (818) 427-1533.

Written by Robert Tindol