When disaster strikes, firefighters and police officers are among the first responders to the scene, dispelling chaos and establishing order.
But the professionals aren’t alone. In the background are volunteers of CERT – the Community Emergency Response Team.
Members of CERT are community volunteers trained to assist those first responders, doing tasks within their scope of capabilities.
“We do things like helping the sheriff’s department divert traffic, or set up a relief station for firefighters, icing them down and giving them water,” said T. J. Doherty, coordinator for the Navarre CERT.
In order to help out, volunteers have to be trained in first aid, disaster psychology and preparedness, fire prevention and basic firefighting techniques, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, and terrorism.
CERT offers certification classes, which start Aug. 15 and continue until Aug. 24. Instruction is free and the group pays for all the materials.
Before completing the course, the volunteers have to participate in a mock disaster drill, which will take place at the Holley-Navarre Seniors Center. This gives the volunteers their first hands-on experience in responding to disasters, Doherty said.
They also have to take an online exam from FEMA.
“We’re not designed to replace the immediate first responders,” he said. “We’re there to augment them.”
For more details on this story, see the Aug. 14 issue of Navarre Press or subscribe to our online edition.