Lending a helping hand: Trainees learn valuable lessons during CERT course
WILLMAR -- It was definitely an illuminating night on Oct. 2 for the first group of Willmar's Community Emergency Response Team trainees. In addition to learning search and rescue operations, the group had the opportunity to put out fires with fi...
WILLMAR - It was definitely an illuminating night on Oct. 2 for the first group of Willmar's Community Emergency Response Team trainees.
In addition to learning search and rescue operations, the group had the opportunity to put out fires with fire extinguishers, part of the hands-on portion of the nine-week training course. Outfitted in CERT vests and hard hats, teams of two beat back fires started in the parking lot of the Willmar Fire Department.
"It is a great experience. It's not something you get to do everyday," said Jeffrey Linn of Willmar, one of the CERT trainees.
Since the beginning of September a group of community members have been attending CERT training classes every Tuesday evening. They have learned about disaster preparedness, fire safety and disaster medical operations.
In the remaining three weeks the students will be trained in disaster psychology and terrorism.
"This will enhance what I already knew," CERT trainee Shirley Ringness of Willmar said.
The last week will end with a disaster simulation, to allow the trainees to put what they have learned into practice.
Upon completion of the course, CERT members will be a group of trained volunteers ready to assist emergency responders in the event of a disaster. During a disaster, professionals may get overwhelmed and volunteers can be extremely helpful.
"It is very important. It assists a lot of people," said Willmar Police Officer Michael Jahnke, who has been one of the trainers. "It is going to benefit the entire county."
The CERT program, which follows curriculum through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is taught by representatives of local agencies, including the Willmar Fire Department and Police Department.
"The more agencies involved the more benefits it will have," Jahnke said.
For this first CERT training 14 students signed up. Most of them have some experience, either as part of the former People on Watch group or the amateur radio club.
"It is good information, to just be prepared," said Jeffrey Linn, who is part of the radio club.
The plan is to offer the entire course once or twice a year starting in 2019, open to residents of Kandiyohi County. The only qualifications are to be at least 18 years old, have no felony convictions and be of good moral character.
"There is a job for everyone," Jahnke said. "We want as many volunteers as possible."
Many of the trainees are taking part in the course to serve and do good.
"To help support the community. I am a believer in we do better together than by ourselves," said Rick Loseth of Willmar, who also hopes the training he and the others are receiving never has to be used.
Susana Walker of Willmar, a member of the Seventh Day Adventists, said her church has assisted after disasters before, including the flooding two years ago. The training she gains through CERT will be shared with the church to be used in future community service.
"Everyone deserves a helping hand. If we are able to, we should," Walker said.
The possibility to lend a hand to their family, friends, neighbors and community is a driving force for several going through the training - and is the goal of the training.
"Somebody might need you. And if you know anything you want to be helpful," Ringess said.