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Know what to do in case of a disaster? This basic response training can help

CERT volunteers participate in a training exercise at the National Guard Armory in Redmond on Sunday, October 1, 2017. (KOMO Photo)

REDMOND, Wash. -- Recent natural disasters such as Mexico, Texas and the Caribbean has prompted a lot of us to think about the importance of being prepared for an emergency.

A group of volunteers learned critical lessons at the National Guard Armory in Redmond on Sunday about how to help when disaster strikes. Several agencies, including the cities of Bellevue and Redmond, held an Accessible Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training exercise. CERT is a federal program that educates people about disaster preparedness and basic response skills.

During the drill, volunteers who identify as disabled practiced triage techniques, search and rescue, and learned about how to prepare for disasters. Some of the volunteers use wheelchairs, are deaf or hard-of-hearing, or blind.

"I’m deaf. I’m deaf. So, if you need me… let me know. Just wave," CERT volunteer Steve Peck told one of the actresses who was portraying an injured victim.

Peck works in emergency proposal planning for the state of Washington.

"Often emergency folks might not be there right away. It might take 2-3 days, a couple of weeks. We don’t know. So, in my experience… educating the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and the deaf/blind community helping them to become prepared to save their lives… that’s the primary focus," Peck told KOMO News through an interpreter.

"I’m just one person. I might work for the state, but there are other folks who have different backgrounds. And their backgrounds might have some other special skill-set… They may know first aid. They may know how to save a person’s life," he added.

The training took volunteers through several different scenarios, including how to put out small fires to transporting victims into a makeshift medical room so that they can receive treatment.

Recent natural disasters in Texas, Mexico and the Caribbean have shown emergencies can happen any time, anywhere. You can’t depend on first responders to arrive right away, volunteers said.

"I don’t care if I’m rescued by a dude in a wheelchair. I care if I’m rescued," said Pattijean Hooper, Emergency Preparedness Manager for the City of Redmond. "So, if somebody who uses a wheelchair wants to take a CERT class, we will train to the same level we train everybody who takes a CERT class."

"Our biggest fear in emergency management is people aren’t preparing ahead of time. Be prepared to be without great assistance for 2 weeks," she added.

Sunday's exercise proves anyone can help, no matter what their background might be, volunteers said.

The key is to learn what to do before a disaster strikes.

"Often emergency folks might not be there right away. It might take two to three days, a couple of weeks. We don’t know," Peck said through an interpreter. "So, in my experience… educating the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and the deaf/blind community, helping them to become prepared to save their lives… that’s the primary focus."

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