Taylorsville natural disaster response program being overhauled and updated
Feb 25, 2019 02:34PM
By Carl Fauver
Taylorsville Emergency Response Coordinator Donny Gasu stands inside one of the city’s CERT storage equipment containers. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
If you are of a certain age, the word CERT reminds you of a breath mint. Those people can also remember the television program “Mr. Ed” and a time when the New England Patriots were a consistently, reliably BAD football team.
But teams, talking horses and times change. And with CERT now standing for Community Emergency Response Team, the man in charge of that program in Taylorsville is working hard to update the volunteer training and disaster response equipment.
“I began this job in October 2017, after working about 10 years as a civilian for the police department,” Donny Gasu said. “Since then I have been assessing our needs and working to resolve a few problems.”
Specifically, Gasu says the list of certified, volunteer emergency responders living throughout Taylorsville is outdated. sSo too is much of the equipment stationed throughout the city in storage “caches.”
“When I started the job, I was given a list of about 800 Taylorsville residents who were CERT trained and ready to respond to a natural disaster,” Gasu said. “But, as I have been working my way through that list, making calls, I have discovered many people have either moved or passed away. I quickly determined we need a new push to get volunteers certified to help out.”
Unfortunately, just about the time Donny was learning he had a problem, he got another one — when the city’s volunteer CERT program manager chose to leave that post. In effect, Gasu lost the only person he had helping him coordinate the program.
“I’m now looking for a new volunteer CERT program manager,” he said. “Until someone steps forward, I will continue to handle it. If it looks like we may be without a manager for a while, I may ask the city’s Public Safety Committee to start coordinating it again.”
“We were in charge of the city’s CERT program for quite some time, until it broke off into its own committee,” said Public Safety Committee chairman Tony Henderson. “We’re happy to help out again if they need it. Having people trained and equipped to respond to a natural disaster is critical, and anything our committee can do to help, we are happy to do.”
Next on Gasu’s “to-do” list is getting the word out, that Taylorsville is now in almost desperate need of more CERT-trained emergency response volunteers.
“I think people just don’t realize we need the help.” Gasu said. “I just barely became CERT-certified myself, last September. The normal certification course consists of one two-and-a-half-hour-class per week for eight weeks. People can also certify on line. They just need to contact me first so our office can help coordinate it.”
“I am also available to speak at schools, churches or other places about our need for the CERT training,” he said. “But, again, no one has requested that since I have been in this job.”
The final hurdle facing the city emergency response department appears to be aging equipment and a lack of large storage containers positioned around the city.
“If we did have a natural disaster, who knows how easy it will be for people to get around,” Gasu said. “That is why we have equipment caches in different locations. But right now, we have only five of those, and they are immobile storage containers. I think we need more, and they should be wheeled trailers so they can be moved.”
Donny hopes to replace the department’s five grounded storage caches with 12 trailers. His department has two of those already and he expects the other 10 to cost about $4,000 each. The cost to properly equip the caches is about $5,000 each, for first aid supplies, back braces, stretchers, tarps and many other items. The total cost to get things the way Gasu feels they need to be is around $100,000.
“This won’t happen in one year or one budget cycle,” Gasu said. “We hope to submit grant proposals to get some of the funding. And it’s likely we will also approach the city council during their next budget season to seek more funding.”
Despite barely being in his job fewer than 18 months, Gasu already has one influential supporter on his side.
“Donny is an asset to our city and is very focused on getting our community prepared with trained CERT volunteers and with the proper equipment for the program,” Mayor Kristie Overson said. “We want the CERT program to be strengthened. We rely on volunteers to make it work and always want it to be bigger and better. We’re now evaluating the emergency response equipment and making upgrades. I think Donny is doing a great job coordinating all of that.”