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Jeffco EMA Trains Local Residents For Disaster Preparation

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Tornado shelter sign to guide people to safety in tornado emergency

Special to The Times

Fairfield’s Westside Community Emergency Response Team formed after a 2017 tornado. The team was trained by the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency. (Adobe Stock Photo)

Following a tornado in Fairfield in June 2017 which produced widespread debris and structural damage, a group of concerned citizens began discussing how they could better prepare for future disasters and be of greater assistance to their neighbors in the Fairfield area.

After several meetings, the group formed into the Westside Community Emergency Response Team.  The team’s first goal was to obtain formal disaster response training, so they reached out to the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) for suggestions on available training.  Jefferson County EMA knew the perfect starting point for the group:  CERT training.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training teaches citizens how to be better prepared for hazards that may impact their communities and trains them in basic disaster response skills including fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT prepares citizens to safely take care of themselves, their family, and then their neighbors in the event of a disaster – a time when first responders may not be able to immediately reach everyone.

The Westside CERT members responded to the offer of Basic CERT training with enthusiasm.  Classes began at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in Fairfield on Monday, Oct. 16.  While only 10 people were expected to attend the first class, a total of 22 showed up.

Westside CERT Coordinator Kathy Scarbrough said, “We live in an area with a great number of older residents – including my own mother.  There are few community storm rooms/shelters in this area.  One of the first projects Westside CERT will take on is identifying buildings that can be used as shelters.  We want this CERT training so that we can prepare ourselves to staff and support the identified shelters and be able to direct those in need to safety.”

Asked why he supports the CERT training, Dr. David Craig, Senior Pastor of Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church said, “We simply want to be able to help the people on the west side [of the county].”

Jefferson County EMA is working to establish CERT programs in every jurisdiction in the county.  Training is provided to citizens by a trained CERT leader/EMA Officer and firefighters in a team’s own community.  In addition to Fairfield, CERT training is being conducted in Argo, Birmingham, Fultondale, Irondale, McAdory, Trussville, and Vestavia Hills, with two area colleges preparing for a training class.

CERT team members generally work under the direction of first responders, and can assist in many ways when requested, as was the case in a recent missing person search.  Even in non-emergency times, CERT members can provide additional help to communities, such as assisting in planned events, recruiting and managing volunteers, and helping with crowd control.

Westside CERT training is being held at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, 143 Seminole Circle, Fairfield, AL 35064 each Monday from 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. through December 4.   Contact Kathy Scarbrough at mightymuscle@outlook.com for additional information on Westside CERT.

For interest in starting a new CERT program in Jefferson County, contact Annette Davis of Jefferson County EMA at 205-254-2039 or davisa@jccal.org.