During a natural disaster, and in some cases when medical treatment is needed, search and rescue and firefighters might be hours or even days away. With a class taught by Tempe Fire Department, East Valley residents can learn skills compatible with local police and fire departments to help during emergencies or disasters.
“During Hurricane Katrina, we really saw a lot of people who went a long time without the fire department being able to reach them,” said Mike Reichling, a Tempe senior fire inspector and investigator. “We want to make the victims become the first responders.”
During their training, participants learned about disaster preparedness, fire safety, medical triage and how to treat life-threatening injuries, search and rescue skills, team organization and disaster psychology.
Instead of having to wait for emergency response, these people who have Community Emergency Response Team (known as CERT) training can start the emergency response themselves and help others in the community, Reichling said.
Through grant money, Tempe offered the class for free, only requiring students to purchase their own personal protection gear, such as a hard hat, goggles and safety vest.
On a recent Saturday morning, the classes participated in a final exercise to test what they had learned in a series of physical, real-world situations.
“During the various stations, it was surprising how automatic my response became,” said Peter Cockle, a Maricopa resident who hopes to take his training and teach others in the community how to react in a disaster.
While residents have a number of reasons, many cited a desire to serve their community and bring their knowledge back to others.
“There are a lot of reasons,” said Tempe resident Rachel Phillips about why she took the course. “But I teach a youth program in Tempe and I think it would be a great thing to have. I’m very involved with the community and I’ve always loved to help.”
Another team member said she was one of the only people in the class who had no medical or military background.
“I needed the challenge,” said Margaret Ann Hecox, who lost her husband suddenly and was looking for new and different ways to spend her time.
The courses were designed to test the people on how to respond in certain situations.
The courses were located at the Tempe/APS Joint Fire Training Center, 1340 E. University Drive, which provided the space and the equipment for students to test their skills.
In one course, the teams of about five people each had to execute a search and rescue effort in a simulated collapsed building with only flashlights and the skills they learned. Boys from a Tempe Boy Scout Troop played the victims and lay hidden in corners and closets, yelling and crying for help.
Pretend injuries in another course made the participants identify which people needed medical attention first and also how to treat people when there isn’t a lot of time.
Throughout the simulation, teams gathered in the training room and were dispatched to as if they were part of a real emergency disaster relief team.
With a mannequin trapped under a “wall,” the teams had to demonstrate their cribbing skills by wedging and stacking materials to lift the victim out.
In a simulated car accident, the teams worked together to assess the situation and determine the extent of any injuries.
At another station, the CERT trainees demonstrated their knowledge of how to use a fire extinguisher, something that could easily be used in many different situations.
In another, they spoke to victims of an emergency, looking to find what the victims’ immediate needs were.
“We had a really great class,” said Joyce Jones, a coordinator for the training. “Everyone has really put a lot into this.”
If you are interested in learning more about CERT training or participating in the fall, visit http://evtnow.com/2ic.
Contact writer: (480) 898-5645 or firstname.lastname@example.org