EMA offering free CERT classes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Shelby County residents are now able to get crucial training in how to respond during an emergency situation, thanks to the Community Emergency Response Program.

Sponsored by the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency and funded by grants from the Department of Homeland Security, the CERT program is offered free to residents wanting to be better prepared in case of an emergency such as a flood, tornado or hurricane.

&uot;This program is about public awareness and education for what a person needs to do in an emergency situation,&uot; Shelby County EMA director Don Greene said.

Residents who enroll in the program receive more than 17 hours of initial training through courses that are aimed at different areas of emergency preparedness. The skills taught during the course range from how to manage utilities and put out small fires to searching for and rescuing victims.

Shelby County has already had one class graduate from the program a year ago. That class took place in Chelsea.

The EMA is currently sponsoring another class in Helena, which is set to wrap up in late August.

Valarie McCay, a resident of Helena for the past 23 years, is currently enrolled in the CERT course. McCay said she took the course after seeing how much it could help in an emergency situation.

&uot;The program is all about preparedness,&uot; the mother of three said. &uot;It can really help give people peace of mind.&uot;

Greene said that the program is not only beneficial to the community, but also to the EMA.

&uot;This program gives us additional trained resources and manpower to assist first responders such as police and fire personnel during a disaster,&uot; he said. &uot;The program teaches people to not only take care of themselves and their families, but also their neighbors and communities.&uot;

The program is spread out over seven weeks with classes being scheduled during the evening time for residents’ convenience.

The CERT program was originally founded in Los Angeles, Calif. in the early 1990’s after first responders to local emergency reported being overwhelmed. The Department of Homeland Security has given out nearly $40,000 in the past two years to Shelby County to conduct the classes.

For more information about the CERT program or to register for a class, residents of Shelby County can call 669-3999.

Shelby County EMA administrative assistant Mindy Nash said that in order for a class to be effective a minimum of 25 residents must be registered. Nash said residents interested in starting a class in their area could contact the EMA for more information