The latest batch of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training classes will be starting in Kirkland on Sept. 17.
The trainings, which happen seasonally, have been offered by the city since 2005, in a host of formats and incarnations. The classes are spread out over a month-long period, ultimately culminating to make it a 24-hour training opportunity.
CERT training uses a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-based curriculum. Through its courses, members of the community learn how to assist themselves and others when, during an emergency, relevant emergency personnel aren’t able to adequately respond. Because 25 firefighters are typically on duty on an average day, for example, there’s a high chance they would be overtaxed if a disaster were to occur in Kirkland.
The upcoming period — referred to as CERT 28 — lasts from the September date to Oct. 29. Spring sessions are already planned for early 2020. Refresher courses are also available.
“The city continues to offer these classes because the demand from the community is there,” Kirkland emergency manager Heather Kelly said in an email. “We are actively looking at ways to increase the number of offerings.”
According to Kelly, a catalyst to make CERT training a priority in the community came after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. Because of its scope, it prompted local emergency managers to rethink how they might prepare residents for other natural disasters, like “the big one,” the massive earthquake that is slated to someday devastate the west coast.
Kelly said that, at the time, CERT training was a fairly new program in the Pacific Northwest. But the city of Kirkland took a chance.
“Kirkland saw the value of engaging the public and committed to offering training,” she said.
The classes that comprise CERT training are varied and frequently hands on. Throughout the seven classes, subjects covered include teamwork, disaster medical care, personal preparedness, caring for survivors and recognizing hazards.
The last part of fall training, set for Nov. 2, is a drill that simulates how an actual disaster situation might look in the real world, allowing participants to put what they’ve learned into motion. For the procedure, parts of Kirkland City Hall are turned into post-earthquake disaster sites.
“The drill is designed to offer the participants a small taste of what a disaster situation will be like, so they know they can handle it,” Kelly said, adding, “It’s the concept of learn, do, repeat and repeat again. It’s the ‘final exam’ but participation is all that’s needed to pass.”
Kelly saidparticipants have been consistently enthusiastic throughout the years since CERT training first came to the city 14 years ago.
“The community has embraced the ability to be part of the solution from the beginning,” she said, adding that, typically, the more hands-on portions of the classes are usually most “exciting” to residents.
The training, according to Kelly, is beneficial both to the participants and people in the larger community. By going through CERT training, Kelly said, residents will fill a necessary role to help others and save lives. She also said that what people learn during the classes can be applied in other ways.
“Participants describe training as fun, eye-opening, a little scary at times,” she said, adding that many invaluable skills are gained from the courses. “Although the content is intended to be used in disasters, there are many training topics that assist people every day.”
To register for fall 2019 CERT training, go to the city’s website.