Wirt County CERT to hold free basic training classes

ELIZABETH – The Wirt County Community Emergency Response Team is looking for new members this year and will hold a free CERT basic training classes this month and next.

Classes will be held from 6-9 p.m. April 9, 16, 25 and May 2, from 2-8 p.m. May 4, from 6-9 p.m. May 7 and 10 at the Elizabeth/Wirt Volunteer Fire Department. Graduation is 6:30 p.m. May 14 at the fire department.

The program provides education and training about disaster preparedness and skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available.

Started by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985, teams have been adopted and expanded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Emergency Management Institute and the National Fire Academy to more than 1,700 communities throughout the United States.

Wirt County is an affiliate of the larger program spearheaded by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department. The Wirt County team meets once a month with many more opportunities for training throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley also available.

In 2013, Wirt County members will concentrate on basic disaster search and rescue, the Project Lifesaver program, Disaster Assessment Team training, weather spotter training, amateur Radio technician certifications, global positioning system training, basic CPR and first aid certifications, on-line National Incident Management System training and participation in numerous statewide, regional, and local disaster and preparedness drills.

The recruitment goal for 2013 is 20 new members.

“We had a very successful class in July of 2012, and along with members of our 2011 class, have a great core group to grow on. Now we need to meet a critical mass in order to make the program truly sustainable and critically functional,” Wirt County chapter leader and Office of Emergency Services Director Bo Wriston said.

The team was active during the derecho last summer.

“Last year during the derecho event, Wirt County CERT members helped hand out water, ice and food supplies at distribution points, facilitated home deliveries to outlying areas, checked on their neighbors and assisted local government with clerical and administrative responsibilities,” he said. “Throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley, CERT members spent more than 1,600 hours during the derecho volunteering. In all of 2012, Mid-Ohio Valley CERT members spent over 8,000 hours in classes, doing public outreach, and volunteering.”

From a Citizen Corp. mini-grant, the team received funding to support 40 new members in 2013.

“The potential positive impact CERT can have for the citizens of Wirt County is tremendous,” Wriston said.

For further information and to register for the free CERT Basic Training Course to be held in April, call Wriston at 304-629-3735, or via email at wirtcooes@gmail.com.