The safest and most effective response to an emergency or disaster involves individuals working as a team, which is what volunteers with the Community Emergency Response Team of Catoosa County will be teaching this month during two consecutive Saturday classes.
"In an event like last week, CERT training means being able to aid your neighbor without becoming a victim yourself," said CERT instructor Larry Miller Then, when the first responder arrives, being able to assist and support them because we understand what they do."
Last week's deadly tornadoes and storms are clear examples of the importance of being prepared and having specific skills to protect yourself and your family, as well as your neighbors.
What: A two-part Community Emergency Response Team disaster preparedness and community response classes.
When: Classes run from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on consecutive Saturdays, May 14 and May 21.
Where: Catoosa County Fire Department's Station 1 in Ringgold.
Who can attend: Any Catoosa resident who will be 18 before May 22.
Extras: Everyone who successfully completes the class will be issued a back pack that includes basic equipment that includes helmet, vest, gloves,flashlight and other essential gear provided by a Georgia Emergency Management Agency grant.
To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Larry Miller at (706) 861-3280 or (423) 313-5053.
Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment's notice through 911. People will have to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate life saving and life sustaining needs.
If we can predict that emergency services will not meet immediate needs following a major disaster, especially if there is no warning as in an earthquake, and people will spontaneously volunteer, what can government do to prepare citizens for this eventuality?
First, present citizens the facts about what to expect following a major disaster in terms of immediate services. Second, give the message about their responsibility for mitigation and preparedness. Third, train them in needed life saving skills with emphasis on decision making skills, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. Fourth, organize teams so that they are an extension of first responder services offering immediate help to victims until professional services arrive.
- Source: FEMA
"Our purpose is to first train citizens to care for themselves and help their neighbors in the event of a disaster," said Larry Miller, one of the instructors. "The natural tendency is to help your neighbor, even if you don't talk to them on a daily basis. This class teaches you how to do it safely. The second class focuses on learning how to serve locally until the professionals can arrive."
CERT training is a national program, first developed in California during the mid-1980s, that distills more than 20 years of "boots on the ground" experience from volunteers nationwide. The training is tailored to meet regional needs - tsunami response is not something that will be given attention in Northwest Georgia - but, county-by-county, develops a national skill set.
"We Americans love to think we are very independent, but we can work together and work well together," Miller said. "During a disaster we have to rely on each other and this CERT training is designed to help us work together efficiently."
Miller said that in addition to himself and fellow volunteer Darryl Camp, the 20-hour CERT course will have first responders from the Catoosa ambulance and fire departments sharing their expertise on a basic level.
"We will teach disaster first aid, how to put out small fires and medical triage," Miller said.
Some officials claim a trained volunteer can be seven times as effective as an untrained one, and the local goal is to have 200 CERT volunteers throughout Catoosa County.
Since being formed about 18 months ago, the local group's members have conducted drills and training exercises. The local CERT team were those wearing green helmets and vests who assisted in crowd and traffic control during the recent visit of the Extreme Makeover broadcast team in Lakeview.
Miller said the CERT team was not called into action immediately after last Wednesday's tornado touchdown. But members living in Ringgold did, as they were trained to do, check on their neighbors that night and helped the Red Cross set up the shelter at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.
Preregistration is required for next week's class which is limited to 25, additional classes will be held in upcoming months.