Anyone who wants to learn emergency response skills and how to be prepared in the event of a disaster will have the opportunity to become a part of a community-led group of volunteers who help out during large-scale emergencies.
The Community Emergency Response team is accepting applications for their six-day training program, held in early December.
Ronald Vought, the Webster County emergency communications coordinator and CERT training coordinator, said the volunteer group tries to hold one training class every year.
Ronald Vought, Webster County CERT Trainer, poses with the pack he would take with him when responding to a disaster area.
Vought’s three day pack includes water, concentrated dried food, a thermal blanket, respirator, chemical lights, a poncho and even a whistle.
"The CERT program trains common citizens to prepare for emergency situations and disasters," he said. "They learn the skills for themselves, their family, neighbors and community."
Vought said the CERT class, which is free thanks to funding from Homeland Security, teaches a wide variety of skills to participants.
"They'll learn to take care in a crisis, and to plan, prepare and create a go-kit that will help sustain them in a disaster," he said. "This will help them if they're ever activated or deployed by an agency or county."
The weeklong class ends on Dec. 8 with a full-scale emergency drill in Humboldt.
"This is the first time we've done an exercise of this nature," Vought said.
The drill will test the training of not only this year's graduating class, but previous classes as well.
"Their skills will be tested on how to deal with a disaster, damage assessment, fire suppression and light search and rescue," Vought said. "They'll also be tested on triage, basic emergency medical services and extraction while operating under a major incident."
He added that the scenario has already been planned out, and will involve many different agencies including CERT, Region V Hazmat, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department and the Humboldt Fire Department.
CERT has been activated to help at various types of emergencies, including traffic accidents that have involved fluid spills and natural disasters such as tornadoes and other severe storms.
Jeanne Baugous, the CERT commander for Humboldt County, said being a part of it gives people confidence that they can handle emergencies.
"As a member, you've got the tools and the training to know what to do and how to respond when something happens," she said. "It relaxes you when something comes up and you realize, 'Hey, I learned that in class.'"
She's looking forward to the disaster simulation in Humboldt because it will give the graduates a chance to show their emergency response skills, she said.
"It's going to be as real as it can be," she said. "It's not just a textbook; it'll be very hands-on. They'll be in a dark building with debris all around. It'll be very real to them."
Baugous recommended anyone with an interest in learning CERT skills should sign up for the class.
"That education is the one thing that nobody can take away from you," she said. "You can better yourself so that even in the home, you'll know what to do. You'll be much more relaxed in disasters."
Though they are ready to respond to emergencies, Vought said CERT members are not first responders and only respond in overwhelming situations.
"We're here to support the professional first responders in an event or natural disaster that overwhelms their resources," he said.
Although responding to disasters that impact everyone is one of their main responsibilities, he said their training can also help the volunteers themselves in an emergency.
"It helps the team members, as a family, to prepare a plan for disaster," Vought said. "They need to know what to do to help themselves and their families."
Vought said those who are interested in signing up for the training should call him at 269-4665 after 3 p.m. on weekdays or email him at email@example.com. Applications are due Nov. 23.