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Local CERT training opportunity teaches community members emergency response strategies, skills

COURTESY PHOTO - Past CERT training participants utilize a wrench to turn off the flow through a natural gas meter, which is common to many homes in the area. We've all heard it before: "The big one." But what exactly are local communities doing to help prepare for natural disasters or emergency situations?

The Lake Oswego Fire Department is hosting free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training sessions for local residents and employees of Lake Oswego businesses on Tuesday nights from 6:30-9:30 p.m. for seven weeks starting Oct. 1 at the Westlake Fire Station, 4900 Melrose St.

Each session will focus on a different topic regarding emergency response approaches or strategies.

CERT is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) nationwide program that was established in 1993 to help community members be trained as first responders in the event of an emergency — or non-emergency — within their community.

CERT training was first offered in Lake Oswego in 1995 and since then, more than 1,500 participants were trained locally.

Enrollment for the fall is closed, but another session will be held in the the spring of 2020.

The CERT training will cover eight different topics, beginning with an introduction and overview of the different types of disasters that are most likely to appear locally — think earthquake, ice, flooding, volcano eruptions.

"We go through the general things specific to Lake Oswego," said Smith, adding that the LOFD also explains what resources the fire department and City have available.

COURTESY PHOTO - Past class participants use a portable fire extinguisher to put out a small fire. For example, Smith said when looking at the potential Cascadia earthquake, the City will have limited resources when dealing with the disaster — most likely bridges will be destroyed and immediate help will go to areas that need it most. That's why, Smith said, it's important for people to prepare for emergency situations so they can help themselves and neighbors.

Other sessions cover search and rescue, medical operations, utility control, team organization, and disaster psychology and terrorism.

Many of the sessions will also include hands-on activities.

During the medical operation portion of the training, there will be basic patient assessment where people will evaluate a patient in various scenarios and identify basic treatment actions to help the individual.

During the utility control unit, community members will learn how to use a fire extinguisher and go over the electrical system in their homes, as well as hazardous materials and what to be cautious about.

COURTESY PHOTO - Past CERT trainees use a piece of wood as a fulcrum to lift a concrete slab, simulating a situation where they would help someone who had an object fall on them.In the search and rescue unit, people will learn how to use available items to lift heavy items off a person who has been pinned down.

Folks will also have an opportunity to use radios during the team organization session. People will learn how to organize themselves to be successful in the event of a disaster and how multiple CERT members can fulfill different rolls to provide immediate help in any given neighborhood.

"It (the training) covers a lot of different stuff," Smith said. "It's a pretty comprehensive program."

After the training sessions, community members will review what they've learned and complete a take-home exam.

While registration for this fall's session is closed, Smith encourages community members to sign up for the spring session. Community members can contact the LOFD if they are interested in being placed on a waiting list to be advised of the dates for the spring offering.

The sessions are recommended for adults, though high school students may attend. It's recommended that a parent accompany those under 18.


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