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Volunteers review course materials during a 2012 CERT certification class. The class prepares local leaders to respond quickly and appropriately to local disasters. This year's training starts next Saturday. File photo

Preparing for emergencies

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From BJ Kohlstedt, Lake County Emergency Manager

Lake and Cook Counties have had their share of wildfires, floods and wind and ice storms. Do you feel prepared for the next disaster or even a minor emergency?

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Since 2010, the Emergency Managers of Lake County, Cook County and Grand Portage have conducted a 24-hour Community Emergency Response Team training during January and February. This course is designed for all abilities and ages 12 and up, although those under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Businesses, service clubs, faith-based communities, homeowners associations, high school students and family groups are target audiences for this class. There is no cost for the course.

When a tornado or wildfire hits our neighborhood, we expect that emergency responders will be there to help, but with only one percent of our population serving as emergency responders, there aren’t enough of them to help during bigger incidents like floods or power outages. In fact, 95 percent of disaster response is initially offered by our own neighbors – people just like us. That’s why Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training is so important.

The first class session will be held on Saturday, Jan. 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. followed by four Tuesday evening classes in Silver Bay ( Thursday evenings in Grand Marais). The final class will be on Saturday, Feb. 8. Classes are hands-on in a casual and fun setting. Our area has four trained CERT instructors. Over 35 people have completed the training with some taking additional modules in Small Animal Rescue and Traffic and Crowd Management.

CERT training is not a first aid or fire fighting class, but covers a range of subjects to help the general public prepare for and respond to incidents in your home, workplace or community. Topics include disaster preparedness and psychology, basic fire suppression, hazardous materials safety, light search and rescue, and basic medical triage. As a CERT volunteer, you might also be able to help with traffic control, evacuations, coordinating volunteers, donations, shelters or a family assistance center, or supporting emergency operations in other ways.

You can learn more about CERT at www.citizencorps.gov/cert/. For more information or to register for the class, contact BJ Kohlstedt, Lake County Emergency Manager, at (218) 226-4444 or bj.kohlstedt@co.lake.mn.us.

Much like CPR and fire drills, CERT works best when we are all familiar with its lifesaving skills. Preparedness begins at home, and CERT training is a great way to start.

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