Response training empowers citizens to handle crises

Firefighters met with community members and students Tuesday to equip citizens for future emergency situations.

The Champaign Fire Department is offering Community Emergency Response Training, or CERT, to community members and students to prepare them with the knowledge and skills needed to handle emergencies.

The CERT program is a grassroots organization originally created in 1994 by the Los Angeles Fire Department to train communities how to handle these situations. It also provides safe family environments and has been available to the Champaign community for the past four years.

Tim Murray, Champaign firefighter, said CERT training helps train the community to mitigate natural disasters, acts of terrorism and other situations where professional first responders may not reach the community members fast enough.

“First responders are all going to be tied up on the first big thing that happens and CERT teaches them a skill set to take care of themselves, their family and neighbors,” Murray said.

Murray said CERT teaches community members to minimize disasters and to know what and where important resources are.

During CERT, trainees are taught basic first aid, basic response tactics during mass casualty incidents, search and rescue techniques, fire extinguisher use and other emergency response skills.

Mary Kay Mclean, Champaign resident, said the most important aspect of CERT is the hands–on training.

“It is one thing to plan for a disaster, but to actually use a fire extinguisher is something completely different,” Mclean said.

Each trainee was given the opportunity to use a fire extinguisher and to extinguish a simulated fire. They also learn how to turn off gas valves and prepare a survival pack in case of an emergency.

John Lewis, Champaign resident, said CERT inspired him to become more fit so he could handle emergencies better.

“This has inspired me to better myself to better take care of my family,” he said.

CERT has also informed community members on the necessary actions during emergency situations.

A woman from the CERT’s first graduating class handled two situations within six months after she was trained in emergency response, Murray said.

“I think the important aspect is that they find out that they can do a lot of these things. It helps build confidence,” Murray said.

“Some of the people out here are in their 60’s, and the fact that they can empower themselves to have an affect on whatever the disaster is important.”