What’s a CERT anyway?

Community Emergency Response Team welcomes new members

CERT Team member Jack Reilly practices putting out small fires. Photo courtesy of CERT

CERT. Community Emergency Response Team. These are the trained individuals in your community who will be there, right in your neighborhood, helping to organize relief efforts immediately after a disaster. They will be there before the fire department. They will be there before the ambulances. They will be there before the police. And Cordova has a new CERT team.

CERT members train for 24 hours, in a succinct, organized class that includes instruction on 1) basic disaster preparation, 2) putting out small fires, 3) medical response, 4) search and rescue, 5) response organization, and 6) extracting individuals caught under heavy debris. The role of an individual CERT team member, in any neighborhood, would be to help rally the neighbors and give them direction after a disaster. Or perhaps, if a neighborhood had enough CERT members, that team could work together (as a team) to assist their own neighborhood. Do you know if your neighborhood has any CERT team members?

When the 24 hours of classroom (and hands-on, too) is finished, the new CERT Team members participate in an exciting neighborhood drill. They organize themselves. They search through overturned furniture and find numerous bloody “victims.” They go house to house and mark their findings as they were specifically trained. They put out fires. They move massive heavy rubble off of victims with cribbing. They show their stuff!  Then, and only then, they become CERT members.

One of the considerable benefits of a Cordova CERT class is that each final scenario takes place in a new neighborhood, thus exposing more and more neighborhoods to the basic concept of CERT.

Each of the homes in that neighborhood becomes familiar with the idea that their neighbors have been trained in post-disaster response. Each household is asked if they would like to participate in the scenario — and they can do so, to whatever level they so choose. Or they may choose not to participate at all.

They may have a victim staged in their yard. They may have a fire staged adjacent to their home (yes, it is closely controlled!). They may have the CERT team actually enter and search their home for victims. Or they may simply put a sign in their window that indicates they need “help.”  Or that they are “OK.”  Either way, the neighborhood becomes more informed.

The CERT program is a nationwide program, one of five federal programs promoted under the umbrella organization Citizen Corps. CERT team members are primarily trained to respond to emergency situations in their neighborhood but are also available to work beside and support, fire department personnel in a large disaster. Additionally, they are available to support community functions, in general. Non-emergency functions. Other communities in Alaska use CERT members for a wide variety of jobs, supporting various community events.

CERT Team member Lisa Carroll provides medical treatment to a person playing the role of a disaster victim during the final exam scenario. Photo courtesy of CERT

New Cordova CERT team members will soon be receiving their certificates at a City Council meeting and will be publically honored for their dedication and time devoted to their community.

Those in the graduating class are Lisa Carroll, Jayleene Garrett, Jack Reilly, Carolyn Roesbery and Charlene Saunders. Instructors were Dick Groff and Joanie Behrends, along with visiting instructor Kathy Watkins from Willow, Alaska. Please contact the fire department if you would like some of the same training.

CERT. That could be you. Cordova. Be. Prepared.

Joanie Behrends trains the City of Cordova in Disaster Management and acts as the Captain of the CVFD ambulance.