Provo, Orem residents learning emergency management just in case
StoryDiscussionHeidi Toth - Daily Herald | Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2010 5:20 pm | No Comments Posted

Font Sizeefault font sizeLarger font sizeShare Take a CERT class. Play with fire. Be ready for the worst.

With the worst fresh on everybody's mind from pictures and news reports from Haiti, those classes may suddenly seem like a good investment. That's one hypothesis Orem emergency manager Jeff Beaty has about the two CERT classes that started just a week after that earthquake.

"We had 32 RSVPs. We expected 32 people on the first night," Beaty said. "We had about 50."

Both Provo and Orem started Community Emergency Response Team training this month, a program designed to prepare the average resident in case of a large emergency in which the first responders like police, firefighters and EMTs could not meet all the needs of the community. The idea is these trained volunteers would make sure their neighbors were accounted for, do basic triage and communicate with emergency responders to make the process more efficient.

Provo Deputy Fire Chief Gary Jolley said the eight-week course teaches participants about fighting fires, first aid, some search and rescue techniques and disaster psychology, and they finish it off with a mock disaster. While it is a mock disaster and the mood will be a little lighter than it is in, say, Haiti, the reality that such a disaster really could happen here keeps people focused.

"We really rely on that because it actually takes a lot of manpower to do those searches, and when you have people who have some basic training in that, it's a good tool," Jolley said.

The mock disaster will happen sometime in March and will involve CERT trainees from both Provo and Orem. It will be at the old Utah County Jail in southeast Provo.

"It's so realistic because that building looked like it got hit with an earthquake," he said.

They involve both cities and try to make it a big deal to give their participants a good idea of what to expect in the event of an earthquake, a microburst or some other major disaster where many people are hurt and the normal responders are overwhelmed.

"We have seen firsthand that these organized groups of volunteers, that the responders like police or fire or public works, they don't need to worry about," Jolley said.

Haiti has made it clear how much these neighborhood responders are needed. Beaty said he received an e-mail from the International Association of Emergency Managers this week detailing a Haitian CERT's participation in the earthquake's aftermath. The group, from Brossier, all survived and gave first aid and triage to about 1,500 people after the quake.

"They used supplies they had ... and as they were trained -- they improvised," the e-mail read. "Our best prevention/assistance for human disasters of this kind is to provide training to local people so they can respond without the delay of waiting for outside assistance."

That is why such training is necessary, Beauty said. Much of what CERT prepares people for are the worst case scenarios, but those happen too.

"You have to be able to prepare yourself to be alone for at least 72 hours before professional medical responders may have the possibility to arrive," he said.

People interested in joining a CERT class can go to www.provo.org or www.orem.org for more information about the next available classes. The course costs $35; classes are once a week and last two to three hours.

The Provo School District also is doing a vulnerability assessment and emergency management training today to discuss geographic and earthquake concerns, neighborhood vulnerabilities and fire and other situations.