Again and again prior to the June 1 beginning of hurricane season in the Atlantic, a mantra comes from emergency managers: get yourself and your business prepared.
And a Category 5 storm sure helps drive home the point.
After Hurricane Michael interrupted classes last October, the Gulf County Emergency Operations Center is set to embark on its unique rebuilding: by creating a Community Emergency Response Team.
“We had a fairly good turnout when we began the courses last year, but I believe in light of Hurricane Michael there will probably be many more interested,” said Rachel Jackson with Gulf County EOC.
“We can’t stress the importance of emergency preparedness enough.”
The CERT program is collaboration between FEMA and local emergency managers and is educational outreach to community members about disaster preparedness for hazards that could impact daily life.
The program trains participants on basic disaster training, including fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and medical operations in a disaster event.
Classes will begin May 28, a Tuesday, and continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays through June 13.
Classes will be held 6-8 p.m. ET at the Gulf County EOC behind the County Courthouse.
The goal of the program is two-fold.
“What we want is for the general population to take care of themselves,” said EOC Director Marshall Nelson. “If we could get everybody in the county certified with CERT and taking care of themselves, that would be huge.
“You want people to be aware and know how to react in the case of a disaster.”
In addition, the hope is that some of those who complete CERT certification will in turn become members of an established CERT team in Gulf County.
“A significant part of it is building a really good volunteer base,” Nelson said. “But to help us, they need to be able to take care of themselves.”
The program offers what is considered a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that emergency managers can rely on in the event of a disaster, according to the program’s website.
And when the general population understands the little things that must be accomplished to care for themselves, that frees those trained emergency managers to focus on the more skilled duties that come with a natural disaster, the CERT website described.
Such a team would aid the Red Cross in its myriad duties during a disaster and would also be crucial in food distribution, disseminating information to hard to reach areas and providing wellness checks of other residents.
And if all that sounds like attempting to meet important needs exposed in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, that should be no surprise.
The CERT program, which went national in 1993, is designed as a grassroots initiative that can be tailored to fit local emergency management needs.
The program was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department after reviewing the response to a 1985 earthquake in Mexico City.
There are over 2,700 local CERT programs in 28 states and Puerto Rico with more than 600,000 individuals trained since CERT became a national program.
“Through CERT, the capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters is built and enhanced,” according to CERT website.
You must complete all courses to become certified.
To sign-up or register call 229-9110 or visit http://www.gulfcounty-fl.gov/county_government/emergency_management