Heroes Among Us
by Christie Knudsen, Public Education Specialist
What would you do if a major disaster left you, your family, and your neighbors on your own to take care of yourselves for an extended period of time? What if someone was trapped or injured by the disaster, what then? The natural reaction for most people in a disaster is to help others. According to sociologist Dr. Lee Clarke, the true first responders in a disaster are family members, neighbors, or even a stranger on the street. CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training prepares you to help your family and your community in case of a disaster, without endangering your own life.
The first CERT, formed in Los Angeles in 1985, was modeled after teams of volunteers in Japan who were trained to assist in their neighborhoods after earthquakes. Southwest Florida is unlikely to experience a major earthquake; however, we can experience natural and man-made disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hazardous materials incidents, or acts of terrorism. CERT programs have been established throughout the United States, Florida, and Lee County. South Trail Fire & Rescue’s CERT program has trained over 150 people since 2003. CERT teams are established in neighborhoods throughout the South Trail Fire District, and include the Legends, Olde Hickory, Jamaica Bay, Seven Lakes, Pine Manor, Gateway, and Page Park neighborhoods.
The next South Trail CERT training is scheduled for January 31 through February 2, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Participants will be trained on disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, team organization, disaster psychology, and terrorism. During the final session, the class will exercise their new knowledge and skills in a mock disaster drill.
CERT volunteers have many opportunities to give back to their community. After Hurricanes Charley and Wilma, South Trail CERT volunteers assessed the needs of residents in their neighborhoods, helped establish a neighborhood relief center, and educated their neighbors on the safe use of generators. CERT volunteers also help with public education programs and projects throughout the year, such as the annual South Trail smoke alarm giveaway.
The CERT training class is free of charge to District residents, but space is limited. The training will be held at the South Trail Fire Station 62, 13500 Sophomore Lane. For more information or to enroll, call 239-936-5281 or go to www.southtrailfire.org.
The monthly meeting of the South Trail Board of Commissioners will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 17, at Station #63, 5531 Halifax Avenue. The public is invited.