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HANFORD — The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program just finished its second round of training and preparing citizens for any emergency that may happen.

The goal of CERT, a joint effort by the Hanford Police Department and Hanford Fire Department, is to empower citizens and teach them how to help their families and neighbors during small- or large-scale emergencies or natural disasters.

CERT’s basic training courses include:

  • Disaster preparedness
  • Fire safety and suppression
  • Light search and rescue
  • Disaster medical operations
  • Terrorism
  • Incident command system
  • Disaster psychology
  • Disaster simulation exercise

The coordinators of the program are Hanford Police Sgt. Stephanie Huddleston and Cpl. Richard Pontecorvo. The training comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is provided to the team by firefighter Scott Mellon, who is certified in the training.

Training is a mix of classroom and hands-on training and features guest speakers like HPD Cpl. Jason Gustin, who spoke about different facets of terrorism.

Sgt. Huddleston said the program is beneficial for the departments and public safety as a whole, so she appreciates those who decide to join.

Volunteers like Don Wright and Mike Huddleston, Sgt. Huddleston’s husband, decided to go through the program with the simple goal of giving back to their community by learning something that could help their families and neighbors, not to mention the busy police and fire departments.

From what to do with a downed power line to the steps of triage — quickly assessing a victim and making a decision on how to treat them — Wright said the entire program was a good learning process.

Another thing he enjoyed about the program was just meeting new people who also wanted to be involved in the community and working as a team.

The volunteers put their new skills to the test at the end of the program, when they complete a disaster scenario-based exam.

The second program cohort went through their simulated disaster test over the weekend, where they put out a small fire, entered a building containing victims, assessed and treated the victims and evacuated the building.

The program can be used just for an individual’s own personal education, but those who go through the program can also sign up to be volunteers for the departments.

Sgt. Huddleston said all 15 people who went through the program decided to become volunteers. They will continue to do one training session per month and will be on call in case something happens and they are needed.

Mike Huddleston said he strongly encourages all people to go through the training because you never know when something might happen, and it’s good to be prepared in the midst of what could be chaos.

“It goes hand in hand with life,” he said.

Along with the knowledge, Mike Huddleston said he also enjoyed seeing the positive side of law enforcement. Wright thanked Huddleston, Pontecorvo, Mellon and Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever for implementing the program in Hanford and making it a success.

“It’s a great program and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow,” Mike Huddleston said.

Speaking of growing, Sgt. Huddleston was excited to announce that Sever had applied for a grant from Homeland Security and the program received $23,000. She said the money will be used for equipment and additional training for the volunteers, like CPR and first aid.

Sgt. Huddleston said the departments will continue to do two CERT trainings per year, once in the fall and once in the spring.

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News Reporter

News reporter for The Sentinel

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