John Beland

 Following the events of September 11, 2001, Citizen Corps was launched as a grassroots strategy to strengthen community safety and preparedness through increased civic participation. Since then, the importance of preparedness education, training and involving the whole community has become increasingly recognized as critical to successful community preparedness and resilience.

Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, is a critical program in the effort to engage everyone in America to make themselves, their families, homes, neighborhoods and community safer, more prepared and more resilient when incidents occur.

Community-based preparedness planning allows us all to prepare for and respond to anticipated disruptions and potential hazards following an incident. As individuals, we can prepare our homes and families to cope during that critical period. Through pre-event planning, individuals, families and neighborhoods can work together to help reduce injuries, loss of lives and property damage. Individual and neighborhood preparedness will enhance the ability of individuals and neighborhoods to reduce their emergency needs and manage their existing resources until professional help is available.

I recall being in an emergency preparedness training several years ago where the instructor talked about disasters happening around the country. He stated, “We are fortunate here in New Hampshire – these types of events rarely affect us here.” Although compared to the huge catastrophic events occurring throughout the nation and world, this may be true, however, New Hampshire is not immune to events that can place our citizens isolated from emergency services for extended periods. In the decade between 2007-17, the state has experienced six state-of-emergency events, 17 major disaster declarations and  four emergency declarations, all of which were the result of severe storms.

If available, emergency services personnel are the best trained and equipped to handle emergencies. Following a catastrophic event such as the 2008 tornado which wreaked havoc in parts of New Hampshire, killing one person, or the near miss of Hurricane Irene, which isolated Vermonters from emergency services for days, you may find yourself  on your own due to loss of communications, the size of the area affected, and unpassable roads.

CERT Basic Training is designed to prepare you to help yourself and to help others in the event of a catastrophic event. According to the 2013 NH Behavioral Risk factor Survey only 32 percent of adults in the Winnipesaukee Public Health Region feel their household is “well prepared” to handle a large-scale disaster or emergency. You can make a difference by using your CERT training to save lives and protect property.

This training covers basic skills that are important to know in a disaster or emergency, when emergency services are not available. With training and practice, and by working as a team, you will be able to protect yourself and do the greatest good for the greatest number of people after a disaster. 

If you are interested in obtaining the knowledge and skills necessary to keep yourself, your family and community safe and resilient following a disaster, the Winnipesaukee Public Health Region is offering a CERT Basic Training program free of charge. This is a low-stress, fun program for ages 14 and above, regardless of mobility capabilities. The program is hosted at the Moultonborough Life Safety Building. Class schedule is March 1 from 6-9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Additional information and registration is available by contacting John Beland, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Partnership for Public Health at 707-5855 or by email at jbeland@pphnh.org.

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