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The City Journals

CERT training begins at Riverton UFA Fire Station 120

Jun 10, 2019 12:00PM ● By Mariden Williams

Hard hats and yellow vests all around at the introductory CERT meeting. Riverton City Councilmember Tawnee McCay sits at left. (Mariden Williams/City Journals)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

On May 15, a class of 25 Riverton residents donned hard hats and yellow vests to kick off their journey to become part of a Community Emergency Response Team. The CERT training, sponsored by Riverton City, aims to give these residents skills that will help them help others in the event of a disaster or other emergency.

CERT is a national program that was developed to help communities become safer, more prepared and more resilient when disasters occur. Even untrained residents try to help their neighbors in disasters such as building collapses, but lack of knowledge of how to do that safely often results in further injuries and further problems. CERT training is designed to help regular people learn how to help others better.

“We’ll go over first aid and stuff in here,” said CERT instructor Jeff Taylor. “You won’t come out as an EMT, you won’t come out as a first responder, but you’ll have a general idea of how to treat people.” 

CERT training consists of a five-week course, held on Wednesday evenings at UFA Fire Station #120. In each three-hour class, students will learn about such things as disaster psychology, hazmat safety, performing search and rescue operations, putting out fires and safely moving injured people. The course will end with a disaster simulation in Herriman, where trainees can put their newfound skills to the test. 

This particular course is filled to capacity, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to sign up for others. 

“The stuff that we campaign, it’s something that Unified Fire Authority offers to any resident that’s in our area,” said Taylor. “We’ll teach it to you guys for free. You can organize a group of your neighbors or your co-workers or whatever, and we’ll come teach you all that stuff. I have to have a group of at least ten that are interested in it, and we can come out and teach you.” 

Disasters can happen any time

The schedule has been moved around a little bit. This particular CERT training course was originally supposed to kick off with a hands-on fire-stopping lesson, but a same-day barbecue held on the firehouse lawn forced the trainees to stay inside for a more lecture-based experience. 

On the first day of class, everyone received a goody bag containing a manual, a neon reflective vest and a hard hat.

“Why do we need helmets? To protect from debris that’s falling on your head, sure. But it’s also for recognition. Same with your vest,” said Taylor. “If you’ve got a helmet and a vest on, most people will go, ‘Hey! That guy is in charge!’ So, normal citizens are just going to come up to you and start congregating around you, and that’s how you can start organizing the CERT process.”

While professional emergency service members are definitely better prepared than local CERT teams, professional emergency service members also aren’t as readily available in catastrophic disasters. Even once they get to your area, they won’t know the people or the lay of the land as well as the people who live there do. 

“It promotes a sense of community,” said John Flynt, community preparedness coordinator for the Salt Lake City Office of Emergency Management.  “People get to know others in their communities a little bit better. No one knows where you live better than you do.”