Disaster preparation course offered to community

Published on Thu, Aug 21, 2003
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Disaster preparation course offered to community

by Shanna Green

If disaster was to strike, could you be self-sufficient for up to three days? If the answer is no, then Dale Kloes of Whatcom County Emergency Management suggests taking Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) classes.

The classes, which teach disaster preparation for emergencies such as severe weather, fires, terrorist attacks and medical emergencies, will be offered for the first time in Blaine beginning September 9 and enrollment is now open. Classes meet Tuesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. for eight weeks in the Blaine fire station at 9408 Odell Road. The course costs $50, which includes course materials and safety equipment that team members will keep on course completion. The class is sponsored by North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services, Blaine police department, and the Whatcom County division of emergency management.

CERT was originally developed in 1985 by the Los Angeles fire department, after about 100 people died trying to rescue others in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. The purpose of CERT, according to Kloes, is not only to teach people how to be self-sufficient, but also how to safely help others without endangering themselves.

�In an emergency, people always want to help, and CERT teaches people how to help,� Kloes said. �Safety is taught in every single one of these classes,� Kloes said. �We really stress the safety end of it.�

Blaine police chief Mike Haslip said the classes are important for anyone, but especially people in Whatcom County.

�We are in an earthquake prone area, and unfortunately we are in an area with many terrorist targets,� Haslip said. �We�ve had enough of a track record to know that people should be prepared as much for their own piece of mind as anything.�

Kloes stressed that it is also important for people to know how to take care of themselves, because in the event of a major disaster, medical, police and fire services may not immediately be available.

�We know that the emergency response we have grown to appreciate is not going to happen during a disaster,� Kloes said.

Kloes said the classes have been offered in Whatcom County for the past four years, and 12 classes have already been graduated, mostly in Bellingham.

Blaine police officer Jay Paul said he attended the class so he could teach others about it in the community.

�This is something that every person should go through at least once,� Paul said. �You learn so much about what you need to do in the case of an emergency.�

During the training, Paul said he learned how to search a building, move heavy objects that have fallen on people by using household items, and how to assess injuries.

�You learn about all those little things,� Paul said. �You learn what�s dangerous for you and others.�

Kloes said that many people in Bellingham took the class in neighborhood groups, and have now banded together to stay alert and know what supplies they have on hand and what they would need to do.

�If something were to happen, it would be a great place to be,� Kloes said.

Paul agreed that the program works best if groups who live in the same area take the class together, or at least form their own team.

�If the police can�t get to you, you have your own little group in the community to respond,� Paul said. �The government and state would like everyone to get to the point where they could protect themselves and their families for at least 72 hours.�

The first three-hour class deals with disaster preparation, including what kinds of disaster threats exist in Whatcom County, and what you can expect from those threats, Kloes said.

The second lesson will deal with fire safety. The instructors light a fire and the students learn to put it out by using fire extinguishers.

Lessons three through six cover subjects such as medical emergencies, how people react to disasters, and how to work in team units. The seventh lesson is a review, and the eighth is a hands on lesson where students must react to disasters that have been staged.

Paul said that people of all ages take the course and that everyone learned from it.

�It was a fun course, and I think people will have a lot of fun with it,� Paul said. Kloes said that the same classes are being offered at different locations around the county throughout the year, so if you miss out on this one, there will be other opportunities.

For more information, or to register for the course, contact the division of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at 676-6681, or go to the website at www.whatcomcounty.us.dem/educate/cert/cert.jsp.