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HANFORD — If you’ve ever wanted to be prepared for an emergency but don’t know even where to start, then the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) may be the answer.

CERT is a joint effort by the Hanford Police Department and Hanford Fire Department to prepare citizens for various types of emergencies.

Hanford Police Sgt. Stephanie Huddleston said the main purpose of the program is to empower citizens and teach them how to help their families and neighbors during small- or large-scale emergencies or natural disasters.

During these types of situations, Huddleston said emergency services may not be able to get to people right away, so this training allows the citizens to take care of what they have to in the meantime.

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.

CERT isn’t a new program, but it is new to the Hanford area. The first class completed training in the fall and the second class will begin next week.

The group will meet for a total of seven sessions, which will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from March 21-April 13. Thereafter, one training per month will be held.

CERT’s free 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

Training is a mix of classroom and hands-on training. The program culminates with a scenario-based exam that puts the citizens’ newly-gleaned skills to work.

Huddleston said the first class participated in a small fire demonstration and also visited the SWAT team, where they learned about the SWAT equipment and skills. She said they also learned about what to do if there is a gas leak or downed power line.

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.

Huddleston said those who wish to become volunteers will be placed on a call-out list based on their availability.

In case of an emergency, like a large fire, she said volunteers can be posted on the perimeters so emergency personnel like officers can be freed up to handle other issues.

Huddleston said the first round of training went well and all of the citizens who went through the program decided to sign up as volunteers.

She said the departments will do two CERT trainings per year, once in the fall and once in the spring.

Any citizen interested in the training can apply and there are still a few spots open for this year’s spring training.

Whether or not people decide to stay as volunteers, Huddleston said those who complete the program will leave with practical skills and knowledge.

“It’s a valuable resource,” she said, adding the value of the volunteers to the departments is also unlimited.

Huddleston said the area luckily hasn’t had to deal with a lot of large-scale emergencies or natural disasters, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

News Reporter

News reporter for The Sentinel

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