During a crisis, emergency services personnel are the ones who help victims. However, the conditions – fires, accidents, storms – that affect victims also impact the emergency services personnel. Who takes care of them? In Stafford County, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has undergone training to learn how to monitor and provide rehabilitation services to emergency personnel. The CERT team deployed for the first time last week providing rehab services at a commercial fire.
"While CERT trains to deal with large-scale disasters, the rehab mission allows us to contribute to the county regularly and helps sustain our fire and law enforcement in protecting the public,” said Jerome O’Brien, CERT Training Officer.
The CERT team deployed six members to the commercial fire last week, providing cold drinks and areas to rest for the men and women working in the heat. During an event, personnel cycle in and out of the scene to allow for recovery. The CERT team monitors them for signs of mental and physical distress and ensures they receive hot or cold drinks and food, depending on the temperatures.
The rehab training was an additional module to the 20-hour basic training provided to CERT team members as required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The CERT program was designed as a grassroots initiative in 1993, to help standardize training for the many individuals wanting to help out during natural disasters and emergencies across the United States. CERT volunteers are trained to respond safely, responsibly and effectively to emergencies but they also support their community at non-emergency events as well.
Stafford County has around 30 CERT volunteers who served 1,479 hours last year on training and exercise and various activations. They are former federal employees, former firefighters, nurses and veterans. They deploy to fires, support the Christmas parade, participate in outreach, maintain the emergency management vehicle and assist victims on scene until the Red Cross arrives.
“They are involved in all aspects of emergency management,” said Virgil Gray, Division Chief, Stafford Emergency Management. “I can’t do my job adequately without them. We appreciate their service.”
There are over 2,700 local CERT programs nationwide, with more than 600,000 individuals trained since CERT became a national program. Stafford’s CERT program is known for being one of the most active in the state. The next CERT training class takes place in September. For more information, visit http://www.staffordfirerescue.com/200/Community-Emergency-Response-Teams-CERT.