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Cape CERT offers preparedness class covering disasters; Course lasts eight weeks

By Staff | Aug 28, 2008

Hurricane season has once again roared into Southwest Florida. Luckily Tropical Storm Fay did not leave any direct damage or devastation in Cape Coral, but as Tropical Storm Gustav rides its coattails with Florida in its projected cone, it seems the area has not seen the last of the hurricane season’s foul weather.

But whether hurricanes are blowing through town or not, emergency situations do happen, and one way to be prepared in either instance is to become certified with the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, in Cape Coral.

CERT began its latest eight-week training program Wednesday, and will meet each subsequent Wednesday through Oct. 15 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. The focus of classes will be on disaster preparedness. The program is free to Cape residents.

“It’s for their own self-preparedness,” said CERT coordinator Mindy Blasetti about why residents might go through the program. “Especially now that we’re into the hurricane season.”

CERT classes are taught by Cape Coral firefighters and paramedics, and cover a variety of subjects including fire suppression and hazardous materials, light search and rescue, medical triage, weapons of mass destruction, disaster psychology and team building, emergency medical volunteering and a CPR course offered to those who complete certification.

“With medical there’s a lot of basic first aid, which can help with injuries after a storm,” Blasetti said. “They learn light search and rescue, which can pertain to damaged buildings.”

Those who take the classes will also learn about fire extinguisher use in a live demonstration and how to handle different types of fires.

Blasetti said disaster psychology teaches members of the community how to deal with post-disaster feelings.

“After the disaster is over, that’s when you feel the impact of everything you’ve dealt with,” she said.

During Fay, CERT volunteers ran the Island Coast High School shelter in Cape Coral, which held about 67 residents during the windy weather.

“This was the first time for us and the first time for the shelter,” Blasetti said.

The emergency medical volunteer course prepares CERT certified residents for volunteer situations such as helping at a hurricane shelter.

“There are many different jobs to do within the shelter,” Blasetti said.

Blasetti said CERT members who volunteered at the shelter found it to be a positive experience, but volunteering is not required.

“They can just take the CERT class, and if they want to do more they can volunteer,” she said. “With volunteering, it helps in the event of a disaster.”

CERT members are also trained to know when to step back and let police and firefighters do their jobs.

When residents complete the CERT program they receive an ID card and a certificate, and are plotted on a map in the Emergency Operations Center in Cape Coral.

Those who have gone through the course found it a worthwhile experience.

“They’ve been extremely happy, they liked the information, they liked the way the course was taught,” said Blasetti.

Classes are held at the Cape Coral Emergency Operations Center at 1115 S.E. Ninth Ave.

To register for the program, call Mindy Blasetti at 573-3022 or e-mail mblasetti@capecoral.net.