CERT training should make us feel safer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The issue: This area needs well-trained emergency responders.

Our position: Events, such as Saturday’s CERT training exercise, should make all of us feel safer.

A group of volunteers spent most of the day Saturday learning how to help their friends and neighbors in significant ways. The group is called a Community Emergency Response Team, and it is led by Pam Cook, director of the Dallas County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

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Many of the people participating in the event could have spent their Saturdays doing other things for themselves instead of practicing methods of saving lives in the event of a chemical spill.

The Community Emergency Response Team or CERT concept was developed and started in 1985 by the Los Angeles City Fire Department. But it wasn’t until the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 that the department added the Disaster Preparedness Division with the purpose of training citizens and private and government employees.

During that earthquake, eight people died and property damage totaled $358 million.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency made CERT training available nationally in 1993.

Training exercises are mixed with fun in most communities. There are the serious moments of practicing skills and acquiring new ones. At the same time, neighbors, friends and co-workers gather to learn how to help themselves, their families and their neighbors. They also bond over meals or visit at the site after the training.

CERT teaches readiness. It helps people help people. It teaches rescuer safety. CERT helps people do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

CERT is people making a difference in their communities.

We saw that in action at this practice session Saturday.

Cook and her team have earned kudos for bringing different volunteers together and making Dallas County a safer place in which to live.