Hendry County emergency management officials are conducting Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training sessions this month. They start July 14 and continue on the next two Saturdays, July 21 and July 28, in LaBelle.
County Administrator Charles Chapman says that having sufficient numbers of trained CERT volunteers countywide is crucial when it comes to assisting citizens after an extreme weather event, natural disaster or community emergency. The most recent example would be the battering that Hendry County took during Hurricane Irma last fall.
“Our Community Emergency Response Teams are critical to our success in covering the entire county,” Mr. Chapman said, describing the challenge that a rural county such as Hendry faces in an emergency. “We have 1,200 square miles of property that is under our jurisdiction, and we only have a three-person emergency management department.”
A flier the county has been circulating outlines the training, which consists initially of 24 hours of learning split among the three days: “The CERT Program is all-risk, all-hazard training. This valuable course is designed to help you protect yourself, your family and your neighborhood in an emergency situation.” It’s meant for volunteers 15 or older, and an annual refresher course is given as well.
The flier lists several objectives covered in the program:
• Describe CERT’s function;
• Prepare participants for a disaster;
• Identify and reduce potential fire hazards;
• Apply basic fire suppression strategies and safety measures;
• Apply techniques for the three killers — airway, bleeding, shock;
• Conduct triage under simulated conditions;
• Select and set up a treatment area;
• Identify size-up requirements;
• Debris removal and victim extrication how-to; and
• Safety measures before, during and after search and rescue.
The sessions are taking place at the Hendry County Emergency Operations Center, 4425 W. State Road 80 in LaBelle, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on those Saturdays.
Mr. Chapman explained that being able to tap a volunteer corps greatly helps in meeting residents’ immediate needs after a catastrophe, saying the purpose is “to help folks make sure they have the information about where are their shelters, what is in a hurricane preparedness kit, how to be the eyes and ears in the community whenever an emergency comes, and to help feed information back to the emergency operations center.”
That, he said, “is extremely critical to our overall success and mission planning and making sure the resources get out to the communities where they’re needed most.”
Anyone with questions, he added, should contact Emergency Management Director Richard Lehmkuhl at 863-674-5400. “That’s the best person; if you can’t get Richard, ask for Roberta Thomas,” he said.