ASHLAND - Ashland County now has its own team of trained and certified emergency response volunteers to assist first responders during and after natural or manmade disasters.
The 19 members of the newly formed Ashland County Community Emergency Response Team graduated June 15 completing 20 hours of FEMA training, participating in a mock disaster and passing a final exam. Each graduate received a FEMA CERT certificate a CERT backpack containing necessary items to help them identify themselves as trained volunteers and provide assistance during a disaster.
There will be ongoing classes for volunteers to receive updates, and each participant will be registered with FEMA for further studies online. Each participant also is registered with the “Ohio Responds” site as a credentialed volunteer who can be deployed in Ohio or throughout the country in the event of a large disaster.
Ashland County Emergency Management Agency Director Mark Rafeld and FEMA-CERT Instructor Melody Barnes organized and provided the training. The entire program was free for volunteers, thanks to grant funding from Ashland Samaritan Hospital Foundation and an agreement with the Ashland County Sheriff's Office to provide free background checks.
Rafeld and Barnes are collecting names of interested persons for the agency's next CERT training.
Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and must pass a criminal background check. They do not need to have a particular set of skills but should be joining for the right reasons, Rafeld said.
"We are looking for people who are looking to make a difference in their community. That's the biggest thing," Rafeld said. "We don't need people who want to join because they want to join another group. This is not the place for that."
Topics covered in the required 20 hours of instruction include disaster preparedness, fire safety and utility controls, disaster medical operations including basic CPR training, light search and rescue operations, CERT organization, disaster psychology and terrorism. In addition to the required units of instruction, Rafeld said he hopes to cover damage assessment as part of the course. The classes also include a surprise disaster simulation and a final exam.
Those who complete the course and pass the exam will receive a certificate and backpack.
Volunteers will be expected to participate in periodic trainings and exercises as well as to work shifts in CERT and EMA fair booths.
Anyone who wishes to attend the classes and join the CERT should call Rafeld at 419-282-4272 or Barnes at 740-398-7380.