Columbia County recently added 33 trained volunteers to the ranks of its federally-funded civilian response team.
The graduates of the 10th Community Emergency Response Team training course were recognized Oct. 2 by the county commission. The county now has a total of 244 trained members of the program, which is funded by federal Department of Homeland Security grants.
The county's CERT program started in 2004, and was one of many created nationwide following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The training includes emergency preparedness, fire safety, emergency medical operations, search and rescue and disaster counseling.
Trainees take seven weeks of courses and graduate only after passing a disaster simulation drill. Graduates are then outfitted with radios and first response equipment.
Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said CERT members are trained to respond independently or when called if a disaster were to strike.
"In emergencies, they're going to supplement existing law enforcement, fire and EMS, because in a major disaster, you don't have enough (first responders), especially if it's widespread and the whole community is involved," Tucker said.
Tucker said CERT members could also be used to staff the county's Mobile Operations Center, answer phones and direct traffic. They can respond quickly, as CERT members live throughout the county.
The latest CERT graduates bring with them various skills. Many are working professionals and some have prior emergency response training. Their ages range from a teenage adult to retirees.
CERT members from the first through eighth graduating classes will take part in refresher courses beginning in November.
A standby list exists for upcoming CERT training next year, but people interested in learning more about the program can call the county's emergency services division at (706) 868-3303, or visit the Web site at www.columbiacountyga.gov.
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