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CERT to begin emergency preparedness course next week

By Staff | Mar 21, 2009

Brush fire season is record dry, and right around the corner is June 1–the start of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season. That leaves the Cape Coral Fire Department crossing its collective fingers for one thing: that residents are prepared.
One easy, free way for Cape residents to let firefighters keep their fingers free for saving lives and holding fire hoses is to become certified with the Cape Coral Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT.
CERT will hold an eight-week emergency preparedness course covering a plethora of topics beginning Wednesday, March 25, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The course will be held each subsequent Wednesday at that time until the course is completed, at the Cape Coral Emergency Operations Center, 1115 S.E. 9th Avenue.
“CERT will prepare residents on how to respond or react when faced with a disaster,” said Mindy Blasetti, emergency management coordinator with the Cape Coral Fire Department and the program’s director. “We’ve had tornadoes, fires and hurricanes in the city of Cape Coral that we’ve been faced with, so this course will teach everybody the simple rules of disaster preparedness.”
Hurricanes are markedly one of the most commonly thought-of causes for disaster in Southwest Florida, but the course also teaches a variety of other topics, including basic first aid, disaster psychology, hazardous materials and others.
“We teach them not just hurricane disaster, it’s any kind of disaster that we can be faced with,” Blasetti said.
Even something as simple as a fire extinguisher, something most people have at least one of in their home, requires awareness to use properly, she said. The CERT course provides a hands-on fire extinguisher training.
“Everybody thinks they know how to use it, but some people have never even (operated) one,” Blasetti said.
Following the course, graduates of CERT are certified with the program and also are offered a CPR training course. Following certification they can volunteer with CERT, with tasks such as working at weather shelters during hurricanes.
Local CERT members volunteered at the Island Coast High School shelter during Tropical Storm Fay, attending to about 67 residents.
Two recent graduates of the CERT program, Regina Kennell and Linda Townsend, have already agreed to volunteer if the need arises.
“There are steps that need to be taken when a shelter opens,” Kennell said. “As a volunteer, they know your strengths and weaknesses. They’re pretty in tune with what level you can volunteer at.”
Whether those who take the CERT class volunteer afterwards, the information learned during the course is invaluable, Kennell said.
“I can’t overemphasize the importance of the class, especially in this time of our society,” she said. “A neighbor who’s attended a CERT program can help emergency personnel when they come upon a scene. I think it gives you information that you’re not aware of in everyday life.”
Kennell said the course caused her to become aware of how to help in times of disaster without harming herself in the process.
“I was not aware of a lot of different ways you can put yourself in danger as a citizen helping a neighbor,” she said.
The CERT course teaches residents how to facilitate the “greatest good for the greatest number of people,” an ideology that stuck with Kennell after her training, she said.
Another recent CERT graduate, Townsend has been telling everyone she knows to attend the course, including her son and husband.
“I took the class out of fear, and the fear stemmed from not knowing what to do in a catastrophe,” Townsend said. “The fear was because I didn’t know what to do or how to handle myself. All of (the CERT course) was really good. The best part of it was knowing how to handle myself in an emergency situation, and helping other people in a situation like that.”
Townsend especially enjoyed the CPR training at the end of the course, and has signed up to volunteer with CERT in the future.
“I highly recommend this to anyone,” she said. “It helps with anything, even everyday life.”
For more information on the calsses contact Mindy Blasetti, 573-3022 or via e-mail, mblasetti@capecoral.net