Utah County course trains emergency volunteers

CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) participants learn to life heavy objects like the metal dumpsters using the “cribbing” lever method to help neighbors in emergency situations. (Erin Tapahe)

This article pairs with “Officials say preparation is vital before disaster strikes”

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program is an eight-week program that teaches emergency skills such as search and rescue, fire safety and team organization.

Director of Provo City Emergency Management Chris Blinzinger helps organize the CERT program in the Provo and Orem city area.

“It exponentially increases the preparedness of our community. We teach them how to take care of their home and their neighborhood until help can arrive,” Blinzinger said.

CERT is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-sponsored program. According to FEMA’s mission statement, FEMA is to help support citizens and first responders to work together to build, sustain and improve the capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.

The registration fee for the CERT program is $35, and participants are given a helmet, goggles, gloves, vest and backpack to carry supplies.

According to CERT-LA, the CERT program began in Los Angeles. In 1985, Mexico City experienced an earthquake of a magnitude 8.1 on the Richter scale. Over 10,000 people died; more than 100 of the 10,000 were untrained volunteer rescuers, according to CERT-LA.

A year later, the Los Angeles Fire Department developed a program to train neighborhood leaders about basic fire safety, first aid and search and rescue. In 1993, the federal government began the CERT training program that is now available in communities nationwide.

“Emergency personnel response might be two hours or two days in a really bad scenario, but it empowers (participants) and gives them a skill set to at least not be a victim themselves, but be able to help,” Blinzinger said.

Orem/Provo CERT Program Manager Mike Sawyer volunteers teaching CERT participants about emergency preparedness. He said he would like to see every resident who is able to become CERT certified go through the certification.

“What we found is a prepared community is a more resilient community in times of disaster because they can rebuild faster — deal with the situation faster and better,” Sawyer said.

CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) participants are lifting a metal dumpster to free the “injured person” stuffed animal. (Erin Tapahe)

In an emergency, CERT participants are asked to care for their neighbors and help others with their training.

“CERT participants might not be called to a collapsed building across town, but they can definitely make sure their neighbors are cared for and that takes a huge load off emergency services,” Sawyer said.

Ready is a government organization to help prepare the public for disasters. You Are the Help Until Help Arrives is an online program organized by Ready to teach civilians about how to help injured people in an emergency situation.

“Please do anything you can do to be an asset in your home and in your neighborhood,” Sawyer said. “And the community as a whole will benefit.”

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