C.E.R.T.- Teaching The Town How To Save A Life

Anita Campbell
County Reporter
Benton County Community Emergency Response Team CERT Coordinator Marie Bowman has been training volunteers since 2006 and is passionate about helping people in times of disasters.  “CERT came about in California because when a disaster struck, people who were not trained in emergency response would try to help people and end up getting hurt themselves.  CERT training gives volunteers the knowledge and training they will need to help their neighbors, friends and themselves in the event of a disaster,” Bowman said.
The CERT Team program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.
CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, which allows them to focus on more complex tasks.  Through CERT, the capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters is built and enhanced.
At the same time, the CERT program was designed as a grassroots initiative and specifically structured so that the local managers have the flexibility to form their programs in the way that best suits their communities.  CERT volunteers are trained to respond safely, responsibly and effectively to emergency situations, but they can also support their communities during non-emergency events as well.
A team may self-activate (self-deploy) when their own neighborhood is affected by disaster. An effort is made to report their response status to the sponsoring agency. A self-activated team will size-up the loss in their neighborhood and begin performing the skills they have learned to minimize further loss of life, property, and environment. They will continue to respond safely until redirected or relieved by the sponsoring agency or professional responders on-scene.
Teams in neighborhoods not affected by disaster may be deployed or activated by the sponsoring agency. The sponsoring agency may communicate with neighborhood CERT leaders through an organic communication team. In some areas the communications may be by amateur radio, FRS, GMRS or MURS radio, dedicated telephone or fire-alarm networks. In other areas, relays of bicycle-equipped runners can effectively carry messages between the teams and the local emergency operations center.
The sponsoring agency may activate and dispatch teams in order to gather or respond to intelligence about an incident. Teams may be dispatched to affected neighborhoods, or organized to support operations. CERT members may augment support staff at an Incident Command Post or Emergency Operations Center. Additional teams may also be created to guard a morgue, locate supplies and food, convey messages to and from other CERT teams and local authorities, and other duties on an as-needed basis as identified by the team leader.
In the short term, CERTs perform data gathering, especially to locate mass-casualties requiring professional response, or situations requiring professional rescues, simple fire-fighting tasks (for example, small fires, turning off gas), light search and rescue, damage evaluation of structures, triage and first aid. In the longer term, CERTs may assist in the evacuation of residents, or assist with setting up a neighborhood shelter.
While responding, CERT members are temporary volunteer government workers. In some areas, (such as California, Hawaii and Kansas) registered, activated CERT members are eligible for worker’s compensation for on-the-job injuries during declared disasters.
“None of our CERT volunteers are paid,” Bowman said.  “I am not paid, this is my passion and I want to help people to be ready in times of a disaster.”
Bowman has trained several people during her time as the CERT Coordinator and said that she would be able to contact at least 30 people at any time to help out with a disaster.
The classes are free; however, each volunteer needs to build his or her CERT kit which can run anywhere from $35 to $150.  “Most of our volunteers just get a bag and buy the supplies locally,” said Bowman.
If anyone is interested in CERT training, please contact the Benton County Emergency Management Office at 660-438-8412 and or watch the EMA Facebook page (bcmoem) and website (bcmoem.com) for future opportunitites.