GREAT FALLS – This week, 18 people from around Cascade County were trained in disaster response to better help their own families and, if called, the greater community.
The number one lesson of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is personal safety.
“We train community members so that in an emergency we can respond […] respond to ourselves or our neighbors, or if the county or the community, someone in the community needs us, they can call on us, and we can assist them or other emergency agencies,” said Cascade County CERT President Jenny Watson.
Over two and a half days long, the class receives hands-on training in emergency preparedness along with basic fire, medical, search and rescue skills. The class attracts people from every corner of the community for many different reasons. Kathleen Davis took the class after she and her husband moved from Chicago to the Dearborn area and got snowed in.
“We got pretty stuck in February, and that was a situation that we didn’t expect,” said Davis. “At times, it was a little critical, especially with, some of our neighbors were elderly, and some of them have medical issues, and we kind of felt not as prepared as we should have been.”
The class culminates with a disaster scenario: A building has been damaged by a micro burst and high school drama students play the victims, trapped and injured inside. The class is tasked with the initial search, triage and treatment of the scene.
“That final scenario allows you to practice a bunch of the things you learned in the class, but the biggest thing is, to me one of the biggest things is learning how to work as a team,” said Watson.
Most CERT deployments will be far from the action, helping in emergency shelters, evacuation notices, or traffic control. Last year, they were called on to help fill sandbags for flooding. While these are smaller tasks, they can still have a great impact in a time of need.
Cascade County CERT trains a new class every April and offers continuing training once a month. You can stay up to date on CERT activities by following their Facebook page.
-Reported by Joe Huisinga/MTN News