CERT trains public to help in disasters

Community Emergency Response Teams take care of those who take care of the rest of us.

Golden Valley Fire District Assistant Chief Jeff Sayer is working on forming a CERT team in the valley. Members will be average citizens who step in to assist the fire department when emergencies occur.

"CERT is designed to enhance the responders' abilities in disasters, like flash floods, micro-bursts or extended power outages, when our firefighters' and EMTs' resources are taxed," Sayer said.

"People want to help. CERT members go through classes where they're taught things like how to shut off utilities, administer first aid, properly use fire extinguishers, do damage assessment, participate in light rescue and work with the incident command center."

The volunteers also open shelters and man reception centers where they help coordinate services during emergencies, he said.

"They're there to help people apply for programs in the wake of a disaster," Sayer said. "Some examples are federal assistance and zero-interest loans. The volunteers also document victims."

CERT volunteers will be active in Golden Valley and will work in coordination with other emergency responders, he said.

CERT has monthly meetings that include training exercises and hands-on practice helping the fire department emergency personnel at the scene.

"Among other things, they handle rehab," Sayer said. "In the case of a structure fire or a wildfire, they provide water, sandwiches, shade, wet towels, things the firefighters would need when they're at the scene for long periods of time."

Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City fire departments all conducted shelter surveys to determine where to place shelters to house people who are displaced during disasters, and reception center surveys to help decide where to set those up if a disaster occurs.

"We've looked at the schools, churches and other facilities," Sayer said.

He said each group needs a motivated leader to oversee the diverse volunteers.

"Anyone can be a CERT member," he said. "We can certainly use nurses, construction workers, police, fire, communications, people from every walk of life."

As might be expected, there are costs associated with starting a CERT team.

"We have to have money to purchase basic equipment for each CERT member," Sayer said. "There are hard hats, 'go' bags, shirts. Some CERT groups buy their own T-shirts that identify them at the scene. And there are grants for big items, like the trailers some CERT teams have."

CERT volunteers are covered under the county's workman's compensation insurance, and they're compensated if they're hurt on the job.

"Our CERT volunteers will play a very important part," Sayer said. "The program is as good as the group and the sponsoring agency makes it. In this case, it will be sponsored by the Golden Valley Fire Department. All of our firefighters are behind this 100 percent."

From 20 to 30 volunteers are needed to start the program and to begin the training sessions, which will take place in the classroom at Station 2 on South Egar Road, he said. Those interested should call Sayer at 565-3479 or Mike Browning at the county Public Works Emergency Management office, 757-0910.