Creswell, Public Safety & Health


Nicole Wood

CRESWELL – When a disaster happens in the area, the more trained hands on deck the better. That’s why South Lane County Fire & Rescue offers Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.
For the past three years, SLCF&R has offered a teenage CERT program for 14- to 20-year-olds, and added a program for adults this year.
Nicole Wood, 17, was one of those teens who participated; she did the program in the fall of 2017. Even though she doesn’t want to be a paramedic or firefighter, she wanted to participate because she thought these would be good skills to have in an emergency.
”They’re community heroes and I thought it would be interesting to learn their side of life,” she said.
Wood said that in the beginning, the program was challenging for her because it was focused on studying and PowerPoints, but when it came to the hands-on activities such as creating a tourniquet or freeing people trapped in a building, it became more fun for her.
The program serves patrons of Creswell and Cottage Grove areas, but is opening it up to homeschooled students and youths from Pleasant Hill.
”Our goal is to educate volunteers in our area,” said Aaron Smith, SLCF&R division chief. ”We at South Lane started this to help out with disaster preparedness in our community.”
The idea for the program originally came from Creswell City Manager Michelle Amberg, who approached Smith as part of her master plan.
”We’re really partners,” Amberg said. ”I think it’s great. People need to understand that when a disaster hits they need to be prepared. CERT is a way to take what limited resources we have and make then stretch.”
Amberg said that one of the cities she used to work for had an active CERT program, and she knew that people in Creswell were asking for one. After Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, she read an article about how teenagers stepped forward and assisted in getting their neighbors connected with what the needed.
”I thought, ‘Why not start a teen CERT?’” She said. ”I talked with the chief and school, and both were supportive.”
The CERT curriculum involves 25 hours of work over nine weeks, and it’s based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It focuses on a variety of units: search and rescue, disaster preparedness, implementation of training, first aid, medical emergency, CPR, fire safety and disaster psychology.
”Most of it is hands-off for them,” Smith explained. ”They’re not going on a 9-1-1 call, but they’re coming in after the fact to assist. They supplement our first responders we have.”
The number of participants depends on the amount of interest, but the first year the program had 12 teenagers and the second year they had six. Smith said he’s hoping the inclusion of Cottage Grove will bring in more participants.
Along with helping the community, CERT hours go toward a student’s community service hours, and can be a ”working job interview” for those who are interested in working in the field, Smith said.
”We allow them to do ride-alongs to get a taste of the career,” he said, adding that ”15% of the kids that sign up are going into a medical field of some kind.”
After the program, the participants are given a Go Bag, which has everything they need in case of an emergency.
”These folks know how to help the neighborhood prepare, know first aid and have some limited search and rescue skills,” Amberg said. ”So in a wide-scale emergency, such as an earthquake, they can help their neighbors.”
Wood said she also received a map of her school, so she could plan a route out to help herself, other students and staff. She said that she is feeling more prepared in case an emergency ever does strike. ”Especially with everything going on at schools with danger, it’s nice to have that skill set,” she said.
Smith said that CERT trainees are taught to first help themselves, then their family, then their neighborhood and lastly go to the location of emergency operations. He said the biggest hurdle the program has is finding a communication method during the disaster, and there is consideration of using ham radio.
”It’s just to offer that consistent volunteer training for community members to supplement professional responders in our area,” Smith said, ”to prepare them for all those topics, disaster situations and preparedness response.”
Amberg said she would like to encourage people to get involved, because the more people involved the better the program can be.
”Anybody who has the heart for helping out in an emergency – there are people it’s important to, and this is a way, if they want to be involved,” she said. ”They have the training we can rely on to put to use and know they want to be involved. Not everyone wants to do this, but if they do, it’s great to offer it.”
For Wood, the knowledge she gained means she can be there for the people who matter most: ”Feeling like being able to help protect people closest to you is really rewarding.”



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