CERT programs help neighborhoods respond to disasters

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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- When a disaster strikes, help from the city or government may not come right away. One program in Utah rallies neighbors to take care of the their neighborhood.

One of the first CERT -- or Community Emergency Response Teams -- in the state was at Salt Lake Community College. An instructor there pitched the idea in the ‘80s when CERT began.

What is CERT?
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Since 1985 the SLCC campus on Redwood Road has been ready for a disaster thanks to Nancy Sanchez.

"I made a proposal to our administration," she said.

And ever since, every building on the campus has a CERT leader, and Sanchez overseas them all.

"It makes us a lot better prepared," she said. "We have this whole group of 200 people who have training to help us."


That's the whole idea of a Community Emergency Response Team that started in Los Angeles in the mid-‘80s: the concept is people helping people, because it may take a while for government first responders to reach your neighborhood or community if something happens.

"There are not enough police in this whole valley to handle some disasters," Sanchez said.

That's where CERT-certified volunteers come in.

"Part of the CERT training is we identify areas we are going to help," she said. "I have a block and I make sure everyone in the block is all right, and if not I know how to contact resources that can help them."

Sandbags and Volunteers
Sand and sandbags are available at Salt Lake County Works at 604 W. 6960 South in Midvale and at Cottonwood Heights Elementary School at 2415 E. Bengal Blvd. (7530 South). Volunteers are also needed to fill sandbags at this location.

Citizens wishing to volunteer to help with flooding issues can go to www.slcoem.org for information.

In Salt Lake county, hundreds of CERT volunteers were called into action to help with Sunday and Monday's flooding.

"It is a phone tree, that is correct," said Capt. Clint Smith with the Unified Fire Authority. "That phone tree was utilized yesterday in Cottonwood Heights through the CERT program. It worked very well again, as evident by the tremendous turnout we received after that call went out."

The CERT volunteers act as another tool that fire and police authorities can use to save homes and businesses.

And though Sanchez says she's grateful she's never had to use her CERT training on campus, she hopes the recent flooding inspires everyone to look into CERT.

"I encourage everyone to be trained," she said.

Volunteers are needed to fill sandbags at Cottonwood Heights Elementary School at 2415 E. Bengal Blvd. (7530 South) in Cottonwood Heights. Sand and sandbags are also available there.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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