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Friday, Nov. 21, 2014

Training helps public deal with disasters

Sunday, September 25, 2005

(Photo)
Cloud bands from Hurricane Rita are silhouetted by the sun.
BENTON - When a major disaster hits, professional first responders may have more than they can handle. That's where Community Emergency Response Teams come in.

"CERT is designed to fill the gap as professional responders quickly become overwhelmed in disaster situations," said County Developer Joel Evans. "During the Mexico City earthquake there were 800 people rescued by civilian resources and in that process 100 of the rescuers were killed - mainly because they were untrained and didn't realize the hazards that they were in."

Early this year, the county's Emergency Management was approved for a $4,000 Homeland Security grant to set up and train Community Emergency Response Teams in Scott County thanks to Scott Ezell, training officer for Scott County Emergency Management. "He wrote the grant and got the money for it," Evans said.

Evans has first-hand experience with the benefits of a CERT training program. A state-level CERT instructor, Evans has previously served on the state's CERT steering committee. He is also a fire service instructor, EMT and has 15 years in fire service experience.

"CERT originally came out based on earthquake needs," Evans said. The program was established by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985.

"They realized in an earthquake situation they wouldn't be able to meet the needs of all their people," Evans said. Over the years, it has evolved into a multiple hazard course that lends itself to a variety of emergency situations.

"CERT training has long taught that you're likely to be on your own for as long 72 hours following a disaster," Evans said. While many people didn't believe that it could take that long for first responders to arrive on the scene, "Hurricane Katrina has really brought that home, that you could be on your own in excess of that.

"It teaches disaster preparedness to help individuals deal with a disaster in their area," he continued. "It teaches them to be prepared to deal with emergencies with their family or workplace first and then to be able to go out into the community and help, also."

Evans said he has been working with the Missouri Center for Safe Schools to promote CERT training in area schools and to encourage Scott County schools to use CERT as a foundation for their emergency preparedness.

"So far we have about 20 participants," Evans said. About five of Scott County's seven public schools are signed up "and the invitation has been extended to the parochial schools."

A training course for all Scott County schools is scheduled at Kelly Oct. 4-6.

"Kelly Schools have had CERT for a number of years," Evans said, noting they had about 20 certified people at one time. "The more the better - you never know who is going to be able to respond."

The training consists of a 20-hour course, according to Evans. "It can be done ideally in two and half days or broken into shorter segments."

The course includes classwork and hands-on, practical training such as bandaging and dressing wounds and operating fire extinguishers.

"The use of fire extinguishers might seem pretty straight forward, but few people have actually ever used one," Evans said. "CERT teaches proper selection and use of fire extinguishers."

In the Kelly training, participants will use extinguishers to combat a small LP gas fire and a larger, hotter diesel fuel fire.

Other practical skills practice includes a mock entrapment which requires "cribbing and shoring."

Evans explained cribbing is where a wooden framework is used to support debris in conjunctions with leverage to safely remove debris, and shoring is the process of stabilizing unsecured material.

Other skills included in the CERT training course are hazard identification and mitigation.

For example, boxes or other items stacked up could present a danger to those in a home or business. "The way to deal with that is simply to move them," Evans said. "If its a hazard that can't be moved, be aware of it and move away from it. For example, don't put baby bed near a window."

During CERT training courses, Evans asks trainees to go home and look around for potential hazards there and to address them.

One easy bit of hazard mitigation is strapping the water heater to the wall, for example.

"It's amazing how many people don't do that," Evans said. "It removes a fire hazard and an electric shock hazard in the case of an earthquake or tornado and also secures a water source. That may give you 40 gallons of water that you wouldn't have had if it toppled over."

CERT training also teaches fire safety and light search and rescue as well as basic first aid skills.

CERT members are also encouraged to learn advanced first aid and CPR on their own, Evans said: "CERT is a real good foundation for citizens and courses such as advanced first aid and CPR will only serve to add to their skill level.

"There's also a section on different types of weather phenomena," Evans said, as people are generally not educated on weather conditions that don't occur in their part of the county.

For example, Midwest residents visiting the Gulf Coast may not recognize the signs of an approaching hurricane or understand what a Category 4 storm means. On the other hand, coastal residents who visit the inland states may not be able to recognize weather conditions that could lead to a tornado or understand what a F1 is.

Businesses, organizations and individuals interested in CERT training should contact Emergency Management Director Joe Burton or Ezell at 262-2070.