by Natasha Brown
Oct. 14, 2004
The tactics they learned could be the deciding factor between saving a life or not. Fire officials are often overextended, which is why volunteer help could be crucial during emergencies.
Volunteers from Berwyn Heights, College Park and beyond underwent a third session of a concurring Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training last weekend. The first session started Sept. 30. They learned about fire suppression, its types and its dynamics. Through hands on experience using fire extinguishers and a fire hose, volunteers became firefighters.
"We got to know how to approach a fire and to respect it," said Berwyn Heights Emergency Preparedness coordinator Ron Shane.
Among the nearly 30 people who came to the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute in College Park Saturday for the tactical drills were local officials from College Park, Berwyn Heights and Hyattsville.
Although last weekend's training was about fire suppression, thoughts of past disasters influenced several area leaders to take the CERT training.
"The big thing for me was the tornado a couple of years ago, because there was so much confusion and damage," said College Park Councilman David Milligan (Dist.1). "Because we weren't in the heart of where the tornado hit, there wasn't many emergency crews here." Milligan lives in North College Park, and said CERT individuals can assist emergency workers.
"Whenever there is a big emergency, it can overwhelm police and fire workers, and there is a need for community teams to help," he added.
The CERT training is a 20-hour course sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and is open to all county residents. Volunteers are trained by first responders on assisting in emergency situations in their communities. During emergencies, CERT members can provide immediate assistance to victims, and organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site. CERT members can also help with non-emergency projects that help improve the safety of the community.
The course is free, and up to 100 participants can take the class at a time, Shane said.
Nick Luiten, 25, of College Park is a Potomac Valley Search and Rescue Group member, and wanted to be involved locally.
" I wanted to make myself available for any disasters or emergencies in the area," he said. "I think the stuff we're learning will help...with first aid, fire safety and just being available in the community."
Shane said that Saturday's training on fire extinguishers would help trainees prevent a massive fire.
"Most people pick up a fire extinguisher to use, when they need it, and that is absolutely the wrong time," he said.
Fires get out of control after three minutes.
If someone doesn't know how to properly use a fire extinguisher, they put themselves in jeopardy, he said.
There will be CERT training from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight on incident management and from 8 a.m. to noon on Oct. 23 on light search and rescue. Training sessions are held at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute in College Park.
Registration is open, and participants can make-up classes when the next session begins in January. Current classes are expected to run through the middle of December.
"We're looking to get people from all over the county trained and available to assist their community," Shane said.
E-mail Natasha Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.