The first Centennial Emergency Response Team graduated just in time to help recover after a tornado hit Centerville and Hugo in 2008. It severely damaged homes and farm buildings, and caused one death. Newly trained members of the Community Emergency Response Team were ready to help.
“Our team was able to go out into the field and pick up debris, metal debris that had blown from the neighborhood a mile into the farm fields,” said CERT Program Coordinator Michelle Lakso.
They also helped manage about one thousand other volunteers who came in to lend a hand.
“We learned a lot that day,” said Lakso. “It’s very taxing to be out on a hot day picking up debris after a tornado in a community that has been devastated, but we were excited to be able to help. The newly formed CERT team had absolute relevance from that.”
Centennial Lakes Police Chief Jim Mork says a trained team is a valuable resource in any number of emergencies.
“If there’s a plane crash or a big fire or a blizzard or flooding, you don’t know what that potential calamity might be,” said Mork. “We just know living in Minnesota it’s just a matter of time before that’s going to, unfortunately, occur.”
Volunteers would be trained in basic first aid, search and rescue, fire suppression and triaging the injured.
“How to identify an injury and how to stop a simple bleed and keep someone alive until further medical aid shows up,” says Centennial Lake Officer Haley Linder. “So CERT members can get to an incident and identify who needs an ambulance and who needs further treatment.”
Volunteers will learn what the experts call, ‘situational awareness,’ for their own safety.
“We don’t want the CERT members to put themselves in danger so if it’s a safe area to go into, they can search for people, say a tornado comes through and a bunch of trees are knocked down,” said Linder.
They’ll also come armed with a back-pack full of tools of the trade. There’s a first aid kit, an emergency blanket, and a yellow marker that could be used to indicate a home or car has been checked. There’s also one emergency tool that can be used to dig through debris, pry open doors or shutoff gas and water valves.
“It does many, many different things,” said Chief Mork. ” You’re wondering what exactly does it do? Come to our class and find out!”
Training starts October 7 at the Centennial Lakes Police Department. It consists of 4 evening classes. After that the time commitment is about five hours a year. The deadline to register is September 20. You can register in person at the police department or on their website.