Members of Columbia County's first Community Emergency Response Team (above) recently completed an intensive program with county emergency workers. The group, which is trained to help first responders during emergencies, graduated recently.
Reminiscent of neighborhood teams during the Cold-War era, it's the newest form of community involvement during emergencies.
And residents of the Faircloth Commons subdivision should be safer now that John Harlan has graduated from training.
Harlan, an independent life and health insurance agent, was among 25 Columbia County residents to officially complete disaster training as part of the county's first Community Emergency Response Team.
After going through several weeks of training that focused on topics such as fire suppression, treating life-threatening injuries and light search and rescue, the volunteers graduated during a Columbia County Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this month.
The class included participants from a range of backgrounds, including Harlan's 15-year-old son, safety officers from area plants, retired military personnel and homemakers.
"It was fascinating to me what our role was, how we fit in the big disaster picture," Harlan said. "We're not experts, but we're pretty much first on the scene, lining up things for the first responders."
The national program, which also recently started in Richmond County, is funded for two years in Columbia County, which received a $58,000 grant from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
The money covers training materials and a safety kit that each team member receives, stocked with items such as hardhats and vests identifying their CERT affiliation.
"We need a civil force in this county to support emergency responders when a disaster happens," said Pam Tucker, director of the county's Emergency Services division. She said that the quarterly classes are booked through the end of the year. "If we keep this going, we can have a full team in every subdivision in every area located throughout the county."
For Mario Banez, who worked as a firefighter for 13 years in Illinois and now works as a lab analyst at UCB Chemicals, volunteering was a way to lend his expertise.
"People will help if they know what they could do, and if you train them properly they will be able to help out," he said. "I think its also pride for the community to have an organization that will help out in case the emergency services are taxed during (a disaster). You cannot be prepared enough."
Graduating members of the CERT team were: Mario Banez, Ed Campbell, William Caskey, Bob Cipperly, Cindy Gilbert, Troy Green, Ravinder Gujral, John Harlan, John Harlan Jr., Eugene Homschek Jr., Sheila Homschek, David Jewell, Donna Jewell, Mike Kennedy, Doug Massey, Robert McCorkell, Martin Meinshausen, Darlene Pressley, Anthony Rakofsky, Crista Royal, Patricia Smith, Jackie Tatum, Randall Tatum, Janet L. Vaughn and Michael Wiltse.
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