Tonawanda News — “After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, FEMA decided to train community volunteers on how to respond in emergency situations ... how to take care of yourself, take care of your family, take care of your neighbors, take care of your community,” he said. “There was such a flood of demand to first responders that they didn’t have the people to deal with it.
“That’s primarily what the training is all about, some degree of ability to provide communication to first responders so they can know where hotspots are, where the greatest need is.”
In the case of an emergency, he said, the CERT label tells other citizens and emergency responders that this group has been trained to assist in a meaningful way.
“We try to lend some credibility so it isn’t just a bunch of volunteers in little costumes and helmets running around,” he said. “So there’s some reassurance that when CERT members turn up, these people have been trained, they know how to work as a team. You check your ego at the door and you’re there to help.”
The FEMA-approved program educates trainees about community hazards, including natural disasters and terrorism risks, and prepares them for functions including fire safety, light search and rescue, disaster medical operations, automated external defibrillator use, extinguishing small fires, utilities control, donations management, treating injuries, community relations, debris removal, special needs concerns, CPR skills, advanced first aid and shelter management.
Lutz said that while CERT training prepares people for disasters, the skills also extend to everyday emergencies.
“When we talk about fire prevention ... we talk about how to prevent out a fire in your own home ... at any time,” he said. “It always helps to be confident in an emergency. A lot of these things are good for every day of your life.”