Thirty-six people gathered for the first CERT training in Peachtree City a dozen years ago, on September 11, 2005. CERT, which stands for the Citizens Emergency Response Team program, prepares volunteers to respond to emergency situations in their communities. Understanding the human spirit and desire to help, the training provides citizens with skills required to support first responders and provide immediate assistance to victims.
Developed by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) made the training available nationally in 1993. Since then, communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico have held CERT training
The Peachtree City police department recognized the importance of emergency/ disaster preparedness training. After exploring a number of possibilities, Captain Stan Pye incorporated the CERT program as a part of the police department’s emergency operations planning.
Having always been interested in storms and emergency preparations, Capt. Pye takes great pride in the program citing multiple cases where graduates have put their training into action. To date, 1,184 adults and 294 teens have completed the program. He estimates that 60% of participants have been female.
“I took the class to honor my dad, a retired police officer and to support the local police department. The heart of CERT is their motto, ‘Doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.’ I’d recommend the course to anyone who’s interested in helping others especially during emergency situations. ” – Jennifer Ashmore
The Peachtree City curriculum is unique and has been expanded to include CPR and AED training, traffic control and a chainsaw class which extends the training from the normal seven weeks to 10 weeks of class. Funding for the free class is provided by grants and donations from individuals and businesses.
Adult classes are held two to three times a year, meeting for two and a half hours on Thursday evenings and concluding with a training exercise that simulates emergency situations. All graduates receive a backpack of supplies and CERT items.
“My hope is that all students, but females in particular, gain the self confidence and empowerment necessary to face and handle the unexpected. Over the years, I have heard so many students exclaim ‘I didn’t know I could do that!’ after putting out a fire, cutting a log with a chainsaw or transporting a victim on a backboard during a class disaster exercise. Knowledge is truly empowering!” – Arline Cuebas CERT instructor since 2009
The Peachtree City program is open to all residents of Georgia over 18. There is no maximum age, but training can be strenuous and includes lifting. Seats are limited in the classes and are filled on a first-come basis. Applicants are required to sign a waiver of liability and are subject to a criminal history background check as a precondition to acceptance into the program. A class is currently underway. Dates for the next session have not yet been announced.
In 2009, the Peachtree City program grew to include a teen CERT for ages 13-17. Modeled after the national program the information is presented in a “summer camp” format with teens meeting every day for a week. Teens come away with a basic knowledge of disasters and their impact. They build their decision making and problem solving skills and are provided with hands on training. This years session is planned for the second week of June.