Citizens get skills to save lives after hurricane until responders arrive

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - With hurricane season to kick off Monday some people in South Mississippi are training to better care for themselves and neighbors until professional help arrives in the event of a major storm. The program called Community Emergency Response Team or CERT teaches every day people the basics of first aid, search and rescue, among other things.

The widespread devastation of Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed South Mississippi's first responders. So many people needed help, and there was no way to get to them all immediately.

"We would receive calls, 911 calls to get into an area or a neighborhood," said CERT Instructor Carlos Redmon. "You try to drive there in an ambulance, and there is a complete house lying in the middle of the road. You're not going to get there. It may take you a while to get there. Some areas it took several days to get into those areas."

The CERT training took place at USM Gulf Coast in Long Beach. CERT gives the average person basic life saving skills like how to safely move an injured person, treating fractures and rescuing a trapped victim.

Bruce Roberts enrolled in the class.

"It's not that you have to be a professional EMT or firefighter," Roberts said. "It's giving the average person some ability to make a positive difference and to respond. It's a self help thing. Help your neighbor kind of thing."

Participants say what they learn here they plan to share with their neighbors.

"I am going to get a flyer and put it out in my neighborhood. And get their out of town contact if there is an emergency, so we can notify kin," said Magdelena Holland, a trainee. "If somebody comes up missing, and we're not sure where they're at. We want the out-of-town contact. Also let them know that I'm there if they should need anything, should an emergency arise until first responders get there."

After a natural disaster when lives hang in the balance, first responders say communities need to know how to make every second count until help can arrive.

Redmon said, "That's the point we're trying to make. That's what the government has said from the president on down. Citizens are going to have to take responsibility for themselves and their neighborhood and their community. They're going to have to realize that in those types of situations, the local responding agency is going to be overwhelmed. They're not going to be able to get to you."

People who complete the CERT program will receive a certificate. The training was free and sponsored by Mississippi Office of Homeland Security, Harrison County Emergency Management and the University of Southern Mississippi Project Planning Library.

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