Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Force Multipliers

CERT uniform and tools (sparkless wrench for shutting of leaking gas)

If a zombie apocalypse should ever descend upon Amherst, our first responders could use all the help they can get.  Or  a volcanic eruption, tsunami, or mud slide ... none of which are likely to occur.

But the 2011 October Halloween storm stretched our public safety personnel to the breaking point.  And for the 22 citizen volunteers taking the 7 week Community Emergency Response Team training course that started this evening, that storm is an all too recent reminder disaster can visit our bucolic little town.

 Citizens from all walks of life, ages 13 to retired

The Springfield tornado of 2011 could just have easily decimated Amherst.

 Springfield tornado June 1, 2011

After hearing everyone in the room introduce themselves, AFD Chief Tim Nelson responded, "Everyone here brings something to the dance.  We will all learn together ... It will be cool."  This group will be much needed additional eyes and ears for public safety, or what the Chief twice referred to as "force multipliers."

Chief Tim Nelson (left) course instructor Michael Williamson

FEMA put together the CERT program so everyday citizens can help themselves and their neighbors while waiting for the professional first responders to arrive, including light search and rescue, small fire suppression and basic medical care.

In response to a major event the group would come together at a prearranged staging area, after first making sure their own house and family are in order, to do damage assessment and inventory and assist those with injuries. 

By the end of the 7 week program all participants will be certified in CPR and how to use an AED.  But more importantly they will learn to think under pressure and put into practice basic skills that could save lives.

Because in the event of a major disaster, a little training goes a long way.

Indiegogo fundraiser for Amherst Record Digital News

All participants get a fully stocked "go bag," in this case a backpack


Anonymous said...

Where are the black people? I see a black instructor but no blacks in the audience. Racism?

Larry Kelley said...

Actually we do have black women taking the course. I only had my iPhone, so I couldn't capture a decent group shot.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great program. I had read about it in the paper and wanted to sign on but I have too much on my plate right now. I hope you'll keep us updated on the program and the types of things you are learning.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes I plan to cover all the sessions, but I will need to do a few make ups once, ugh, Town Meeting starts.

Anonymous said...

Oh goody, another bunch of weekend warriors with just enough knowledge to be dangerous. More wannabe fire-guys or AKA ambulance chasers. Stay home and mind your own beeswax. Idiots like you cause more problems for the pros.

Larry Kelley said...

Funny you should mention that as one participant asked the Chief about that in almost exactly those words. And he made it very clear that his department would wholeheartedly welcome the extra help.

And whatever the Chief says, goes.

Anonymous said...

Of course he welcomes the help; the town won't give him any. Instead of hiring more firefighters or cops they get…...

Larry Kelley said...

Hey at least none of us are Cowardly Anon Nitwits.

Anonymous said...

Are they going to help at the next Blarney they can move the students along. Get them hardhats.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, hardhats are included. No tasers however.

Anonymous said...

The CERT program along with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is simply the post 9/11 incarnation of what was called Civil Defense in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. In the 80s and 90s we called it emergency management. The basic theory is to give civilians some basic emergency training and sometimes, more focussed training for a.specific task. These could be sheltering operations, emergency scene rehabilitation, search and rescue, really anything that will assist the full time emergency responders in a particular jurisdiction. This all grew out of having literally thousands of ordinary citizens who had no specific training attempt to volunteer at the WTC collapse site. FEMA developed the program to capitalize on this and to hopefully better organize volunteers in future disasters. It is a very worthwhile program.

Jeff Parr
Amherst Fire
Massachusetts Urban Search & Rescue Task Force (FEMA MATF-1)