The local Lehigh Acres Community Emergency Response Team, known as the (Lehigh Acres CERT) was started in 2006 by Fire Chief Donald Adams, and then Patrick Comer took over shortly afterwards when he was employed by the fire department, and was reorganized in March of 2010 by me.
So why was the Lehigh Acres CERT started? I was starting to help train local community members in the event of a disaster should it strike their community or neighborhood. Look back when this area had Hurricane Charlie and Wilma, the neighborhoods were hit hard and trees down, power lines down, roof tops damaged and debris everywhere.
Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District comprises approximately 143 square miles. With the community so big and only about 120 fire department members to cover this area in a disaster, they cannot be in each and every neighborhood at the same time. They need assistance from the community.
Local CERT members are all volunteers who want to take specialized training in disaster preparedness and community assistance to assist in their neighborhood. The course is nine sessions of approximately three hours each or a total of 27 hours with six additional hours of animal response, for completion of the basic CERT course.
Some of these sessions include how to treat first aid emergencies, how to move a victim from an unsafe area to a safe location, how to use a fire extinguisher to put out a small fire to keep it from becoming larger and neighborhood damage assessment. In all these sessions, safety is the overall theme, just as in a neighborhood disaster community residents must learn how to be safe and create a safe recovery process.
Additional courses are offered for all members to take from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), they include IS-100 Introduction to the Incident Command System, IS-200 ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents, IS-700 National Incident Management System, IS-800 Introduction to the National Response Framework.
Caption for CERT Training, Photo at right.
Lehigh Acres citizens as volunteers are shown training as members of CERT.
These courses help community members learn how a disaster is managed and how disaster resources are assigned. As other courses become available in the local area, the Lehigh Acres CERT members are encouraged to attend and take as many courses as they would like.
Education breeds success and if a neighborhood has a disaster, who takes care of it first?
It would be the local members living in that community. Without anyone in that neighborhood having CERT training, everyone would want the local emergency response units to arrive right then.
Now, multiply that by 20 neighborhoods in Lehigh Acres and it may take a few hours to days. So as Lehigh Acres CERT members, they are trained to take care of themselves first, then their family, and then their neighborhood. They are the trained first responders in a disaster to assist and help direct their neighborhood community in a quick first response until the local fire department can arrive on the scene, to take over.
Without the local neighborhood CERT members assisting during a disaster, your neighborhood response may be delayed.
The local Lehigh Acres CERT program is always looking for members to become trained to help take care of their neighborhood. There are classes starting all through the year. If you are interested in completing this free course in disaster preparedness, please stop by Station 105, Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District located at 636 Thomas Sherwin Ave, South, or call 239-303-5300 for an application and more information.
Linda Carter is the Lehigh Acres CERT program manager. Ed.