CERT helps people take care of others in case of disaster

HARLINGEN — The Harlingen Fire Department is always looking for volunteers to participate in its community emergency response team.

The team is made up of dedicated volunteers who, in the event of a disaster, will respond and assist their community.

“We teach people to take care of first their family, house and then neighborhood,” said Harlingen CERT Team Leader Bill Snyder.

“We learn just enough to help in a minor way in the event of a disaster.”

Volunteers will spend about 20 hours in training,

Snyder said some of the group’s efforts include public information about hazard awareness, disaster preparation, recruitment of volunteers, disaster drills, and CPR advanced training.

During or after a disaster, the CERT volunteers work on emergency communications, offer language interpretation, conduct shelter management, and participate in search-and-rescue operations.

“All of our individuals have special skills and we combine our talents to be an effective team,” Snyder said. “We take our responsibilities very seriously and it’s a privilege to serve Harlingen in any ways possible.”

Volunteers are expected to be knowledgeable and spread the word on hazard awareness, special projects, disaster preparedness, recruiting, disaster drills, public education, and outreach and advanced training.

Training covers basic emergency preparedness, response capabilities, first aid, fire suppression, and search and rescue procedures.

Volunteers will receive equipment to use when activated. If a disastrous event overwhelms or delays the community’s professional response, CERT members can assist others by applying the basic response and organizational skills they learned during training.

Graduates are better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of disasters. Neighborhood groups receiving CERT training become closer-knit and are able to help each other when disaster strikes.

Snyder said the program has been very successful in local RV parks.

For example, he said the CERT team at Sunshine RV Park has been instrumental in quickly delivering medical aid for residents in that neighborhood by successfully operating the AED (automated external defibrillator) three times to resuscitate people before first responders arrive on the scene.

One of the Harlingen CERT goals is to establish more CERT teams within separate RV parks and similar neighborhoods.