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Worried about that next hurricane? Sign up for CERT

Emergencies happen at all hours, but the cost of staffing an emergency department at night is higher than by day, according to emergency care providers.
Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics
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UIG via Getty Images
Emergencies happen at all hours, but the cost of staffing an emergency department at night is higher than by day, according to emergency care providers.

New Hanover County is hosting a free class on Tuesdays which will help everyday citizens prepare for emergencies. The CERT class can help citizens become part of the solution during a crisis.

Moving to a new place can be a matter of coming to terms with the local natural disasters: be they tornadoes, wildfires, or the Cape Fear’s local hurricanes.

But emergency preparedness translates across all kinds of emergencies- it’s just a matter of knowing what to do. That’s where the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program comes in.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency developed the training model, and in many cities it’s focused on creating teams of people who can work together as first responders during a severe event, when professional first responders are spread thin.

The free training program teaches civilians of all ages the basic skills required to respond to an emergency.

Anna McRay, New Hanover County’s Assistant Director of Emergency Management, says the 27-hour training program teaches people how to be more comfortable handling an emergency.

“We're talking about basic disaster preparedness kits, we're talking about how to use a fire extinguisher, some really super basic first aid, some psychological trauma, kind of awareness, things like that,” McRay said. “One of the most important things with our CERT program is making citizens feel more comfortable being aware of the threats and hazards, and how they can be empowered to take care of themselves before, during and after an emergency.”

CERT members learn to check on their neighbors during and after natural disasters, and learn how to communicate with first responders. In some programs, they learn how to perform search and rescue operations, how to triage patients, and the basic medical terminology used by professional first responders.

“We'll do a couple of nights of some really basic first aid, and teach people how to open an airway, how to stop bleeding, how to splint a fracture,” McRay said.

In New Hanover County, some CERTs take their learning to the next level, and volunteer with the county emergency department or fire department. The program is largely about empowerment, McRay said.

“We found people that were interested in wanting to help their community and do something, instead of just standing there going, ‘Oh, my gosh, somebody do something,’ they could be that somebody.”

This fall’s CERT class starts on Tuesday, October 5 at 6:30 p.m., and runs for seven weeks. Participants will also run a practice drill on October 27.

“At the end of the day, if we have a class of 30 people that can go and make their own disaster kits, and they know how to call 911, and they can help their neighborhood. That's awesome,” McRay said.

Click here to sign up, or call 910-798-6900. Classes are available in person or remotely, and are cost-free.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.