Recently when disaster struck in La Salle County — be it flood, fire or tornado — a civilian group, the Community Emergency Response Team, was on the front lines of helping citizens in need.
According to La Salle County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Fred Moore, the county CERT team was disbanded in 2013, however, to encourage municipalities to establish their own disaster response organizations.
"So far, Marseilles, after the 2013 flood, is the only community to start such a team," Moore said. "We are hoping for more (cities) to organize teams."
Next month, the LCEMA are seeking volunteers interested in signing up for a free, 20-hour course that will consist of basic disaster preparedness, including fire suppression, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, team organization, disaster psychology and terrorism.
The class will meet Tuesdays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. over a six-week period from Feb. 6 through March 13.
The training will be at the La Salle County Emergency Management Agency office, which is the farthest south building at the government center complex located at 711 E. Etna Road in Ottawa.
“During the past five years, La Salle County has experienced at least one tornado per year including the historic June 22, 2016, outbreak that had eight confirmed tornadoes," Moore said. "We want to encourage the residents of La Salle County to be ready for any future natural, man-made, or technological disasters”
Moore said the CERT training provides valuable information on how individuals can prepare themselves, their homes and their neighborhood; but the name is slightly a misnomer. There is no need to join a team to participate in the training, but volunteer opportunities with the emergency management agency will be discussed briefly during one of the classes.
Moore explained attendees must attend 80 percent of the class and participate in the disaster simulation at the end of it. There is a minimum number of participants required and registration deadline is Thursday, Feb 1.
The final class is a disaster simulation where participants will put their knowledge and skills to the test in a safe setting.
"In past CERT sessions, besides local residents, we have hosted several interested individuals from Illinois Valley Community College staff and many people from local businesses," he said.
To register for the sessions, go online to bit.ly/2mnisEQ. For more information, contact the Emergency Management Agency office at 815-433-5622.
The CERT program was originally founded in Ottawa by former Ottawa Fire Chief Rick Scott, who used a federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security made available after Sept. 11, 2001. CERT became a county program in 2005 and was utilized during community disasters for eight years.