• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Helping neighbors – and themselves

CERT trainees Maria Kinney, left, and her mother, Linda Flora, took part in last fall’s Community Emergency Response Team training at the Versailles Fire Station on Huntertown Road. (Photo submitted)

Woodford Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler will be taking part in his 20th CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) “civilian” training program when the classes come to Midway Feb. 25. The two-day, free class at The Homeplace at Midway runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, and Saturday, March 11. Chandler says the name is actually a bit misleading. “The origin of the program stems from the old concept of neighbors helping neighbors, but the actual lessons to be learned throughout the series of courses are things that people can employ in their everyday lives – at home, at work and with their neighbors,” said Chandler. With no recent man-made or natural disasters in the area, Chandler said that fewer folks are aware of things they should have at home if, for instance, a tornado or a severe winter storm strikes. “Those sorts of things lead to long-term power outages, and they don’t think about having a manual can-opener (or) having stockpiled food and other resources,” said Chandler. The first portion of the course will deal with basic disaster preparedness, with tips ranging from having contact numbers written down (in case a cell phone list isn’t accessible) to having a plan for where family members should go if they can’t get home. Fire safety tips, with guest speaker Midway Fire Chief Butch Armstrong, will include advice on not storing certain chemicals and how to use a fire extinguisher. “A lot of people go through life and never have the opportunity to do that, which is a good thing in real life, but the ability to practice it is something most folks don’t get to do, either,” Chandler said. Attendees will get to put out a real fire. Two courses will focus on basic first aid. Chandler said most people won’t ever come upon someone who’s been badly cut in a car crash – but may see such an accident in the kitchen, and will learn how to put a bandage on it and apply pressure. One section portion will involve “light search and rescue” tips, and another will discuss possible signs of terrorism, during which folks will be taught that it’s okay to “say something if you see something.” Chandler said attendees will also be given tips on how to amass a “20-week” disaster preparedness kit. “A lot of folks, they’ll come to some kind of class, and they’ll make this decision, ‘Hey, we need to build an emergency supply kit.’ But it’s very expensive to do all at once, and it deters a lot of folks from ever doing it,” Chandler said. The shopping guide will feature items like two gallons of water, a manual can opener, and other things Chandler said most people can afford by buying a few each week. “The core principle of the CERT program and any disaster preparedness activity is we want people to be so efficient as a matter of resilience and that makes them not part of the problem after the disaster. If folks have water at home, if they have food at home, if they’ve prepared for a three-day power outage, they’re not going to call 9-1-1 or another government agency for help,” Chandler said. “So we can prioritize help to the medically fragile, children, and those most vulnerable populations with the very small amount of resources that we have before federal resources come in 72 to 96 hours later.” Some of the trainees may continue training and join the CERT team, which Chandler said has about 40 members, down from 160 several years ago, which at the time was the largest in the state. “But I’m confident that if we put out a call that we needed folks – an ice storm has hit Woodford County, and we need to open a shelter, or we need assistance delivering meals … I’m confident that more people would come out of inactive status to help with that,” Chandler said. CERT team members can attend more advanced classes every other month. “Woodford County’s responders – we can deal with the day-to-day. But when we have something that taxes all our resources, there’s a good chance that (other area cities), on a day-to-day basis, we’d lean on them for help and they’d lean on us,” Chandler said. “But when the big one finally hits Central Kentucky, we’re going to be on our own, and having this group of folks who’ve been trained, that know more than the average person, (they’re) going to be less of a problem, and that’s going to help us be better able to prioritize our resources based on true need.” While the subjects are serious, Chandler said there have been plenty of laughs at CERT courses over the years, and that the humor helps build a bond. One year, then-State Farm Insurance owner Robert Goh played – without the knowledge of his fellow attendees – someone who’d suffered a brain injury. Without an obvious wound, he seemed fine. “Robert had a mental injury, and he was just walking around, snatching up the volunteers’ gear bags. They were down on the ground, rendering aid, and then they turn around and all their stuff’s gone, and there’s Robert walking away with it,” Chandler said with a laugh. The lessons learned were twofold: some injuries aren’t obvious – and keep an eye on your gear. You can sign up for the CERT emergency response training by calling 873-3170 or by emailing jmills@woodfordem.com.

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