By Jami Makan
A community emergency response team (CERT) training course is scheduled to start on February 20 in Blaine.
The CERT program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their region, and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.
Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help.
The course runs from February 20 to March 16, and consists of eight classes. Classes will be three hours long, and will be held on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons.
The lead instructors will be Liz Parker, Cheryl Strong and Mary Lou Steward.
Topics to be covered include disaster preparedness and terrorism; fire safety and utility controls; disaster medical operations; light search and rescue operations; and disaster psychology. The course will culminate in a simulated disaster response in which students demonstrate their skills with live victims.
According to the Whatcom Unified Emergency Coordination Center website, the course fee is $50 for all eight sessions, with the class size limited to 24 students.
Steward said that safety is always the first priority. She said this includes educating trainees about disaster psychology, since there can be a profound impact on a responder’s mental health following a disaster situation.
“We are not first responders,” she said, adding that CERT trainees play more of a “middle role” in helping professional first responders do their jobs more efficiently.