VIRGINIA BEACH — Whether they were going door-to-door after Hurricane Matthew or directing traffic at the memorial service at Rock Church after May 31, the Virginia Beach Community Response Team was trained and ready to assist in their community during times of disaster.
Cookie Ketcham, the VBCERT program manager, said whether you’re 12 years old or 82, all residents are qualified for free training to become part of the CERT at their upcoming 10-class session running from Sep. 3 to Oct. 5.
On Oct. 5 trainees will put their learned skills to the test during a practical exercise or “mock disaster.”
“We train everyone as an individual so that they can form neighborhood teams,” she said.
Over about six-weeks, CERT volunteers attend class two-days per week where they’ll be issued personal protective equipment and learn terrorism awareness, emergency preparedness, fire safety and suppression, disaster psychology, and more.
“If a disaster happens that overwhelms local response capability, CERT members can apply the training learned in the classroom and during exercises to give critical support to their family, loved ones, neighbors or associates in their immediate area until help arrives,” Ketcham said.
CERT members also learn how to communicate “relevant information” with responders once they arrive and can “support their efforts, as directed, at the disaster site,” she said.
With 1,500 members trained so far, Ketcham said the program’s mission is to have at least one CERT-trained member in every neighborhood.
“People who go through CERT training have a better understanding of the potential threats to their home, workplace, and community and can take the right steps to lessen the effects of these hazards on themselves, their homes or workplace,” she said.
Most of the classes are on Tuesdays, and Thursdays at the Fire Training Center, 927 South Birdneck Road, from 6 p.m to 10 p.m.
To register for training or for more information on how to become part of the team, click here.