The Banks Fire District, already staffed largely by volunteers, is training a new cadre of people who can volunteer to help in emergency situations: Regular citizens.
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, a national program established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that seeks to train volunteers has come to Banks.
Thanks to a grant Banks Fire received right before the pandemic hit, the first CERT training in recent memory in Banks is getting off the ground this month.
In a monthlong course, the free program will train around a dozen people in skills ranging from first aid, search and rescue, to disaster preparedness and even terrorism response.
As of Thursday, about 8 people had signed up for the free course, said Edward Lara, a Banks Fire District volunteer and the program manager for the CERT training.
“It’s really grown into this nationally taught set of curriculum and training to help give additional training and insight to community members on how best that they can help themselves and their neighbors in the event of a natural or man-made disaster,” Lara told the Banks Post during an interview at Banks Fire offices.
He and other instructors—all trained through a “train the trainer” program—are well versed in the course material, he said.
The first class begins Tuesday, October 17, with classes following on October 24, November 2, and 7 (all from 6 to 10 p.m.), and the exam held from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, November 11.
A graduation will be held at the next monthly Banks Fire District Board meeting.
Classes will be held at the fire stations in Banks and Buxton.
Those interested in taking the class were asked to email the district at [email protected].
After this class concludes, the hope is to have additional ones in the future to train more CERT qualified community members, creating a wider pool of trained individuals in the greater Banks region.
“It can be any emergency situation at all where first responders or the community needs additional hands,” said Banks Fire spokesperson Scott Adams.
He envisions a program where CERT trained individuals are available for major disasters, but are also working alongside the district throughout the year.
While a national course, the program allows for tailoring to the locality in which it’s taking place, so, for example, a module on hurricane preparedness might be taught in Florida, but not Oregon.
“We want them to have some experience, we want them to have the opportunity to work alongside us on smaller events throughout the year,” Adams said.
Lara said the course should take about 20 hours to complete in four four-hour training sessions followed by a practical exam during another session.
Lara said one of the biggest differences in CERT training compared to other courses is the immediate emphasis on teamwork.
The first unit of the course has participants do a team-building activity.
“It’s meant to show that different people with different levels of experience with different strengths and weaknesses can come together and accomplish something,” he said.