County Offers Free Disaster Preparedness Training

CERT participants training during simulated emergency. Photo credit: Camden County CERT Facebook page.

GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. — As many Americans have become increasingly interested in disaster preparedness and response skills in the wake of extreme weather and other natural events in the US and around the world, the Camden County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will once again offer a free, 20-hour training curriculum to prepare interested Camden County residents to help protect themselves, their family, and their community during a disaster.

“The CERT program is an all-risk, all-hazard training designed to help you protect your family and neighbors in the event of a disaster,” Freeholder Jonathan Young, liaison to the Camden County Department of Public Safety, said in a press release. “CERT team members are not first responders but are uniquely prepared to respond during traumatic events. This is an excellent opportunity to give yourself and your family peace of mind in an increasingly unpredictable environment.”

According to their website, CERT was “developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Further, it confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs.”

“Since 1993 when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training. FEMA supports CERT by conducting or sponsoring Train-the-Trainer and Program Manager courses for members of the fire, medical and emergency management community,” the website states.

Nationwide, there are over 2,700 local CERT programs, with more than 600,000 volunteers trained since CERT became a national program.

“The CERT and TeenCERT programs are a great way for you and your teen over 13 years of age to learn how to help your friends, family and community in times of need,” Jay Vilardo

Coordinator of Camden County CERT said in an email. “The program is a fun and informative way to learn how to be a more active member in the community and it is a great way to accumulate community service hours.”

The training is comprised of both practical exercises and classroom instruction and includes recognizing types of hazards, disaster medical operations,fire safety, fight search and rescue, lift and carries, debris removal techniques, and door breaching.

The training sessions will be held on Friday, March 6, from 7:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M., Saturday, March 7, from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., and Sunday, March 8, from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Sessions are held at the Charles P. Dougherty Sr. Center located at 508 Lambert Avenue in Mount Ephraim. Once initial training is completed, participants will be eligible for additional skills training throughout the year.

Pre-registration is required in order to participate. Participants under the age of 18 must also receive parent/guardian permission to attend. People interested in training and joining the CERT Team, can register by emailing no later than Monday, March 1, 2020.