Extreme cold weather or other weather related disasters and emergencies make a person wish they were more prepared. In Grayson County, an upcoming class can help make that happen.

The Office of Emergency Management coordinates the training and activities of the Grayson County Community Emergency Response Teams, also known as CERT.

CERT is a training program that prepares people to help themselves, family and neighbors in the event of a disaster. During an incident, emergency service personnel may not be able to reach everyone right away. By getting trained in CERT, one will have the skills to help emergency responders save lives and protect property.

As a trained CERT member, people can respond to disasters, participate in drills and exercises and take additional training. CERT is a known and trusted resource to emergency responders and their communities. After local disasters have impacted Grayson County, trained CERT personnel helped drive and walk the impacted areas in the entire county, quickly gathering damage assessment information that was integral to the recovery process. The damage information they obtained established eligibility for Grayson County residents to obtain low interest loans through the Small Business Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency to make needed repairs.

In the aftermath of the winter storms in December 2013, many CERT members were used as EOC support personnel, stranded motorist warning center support, etc. OEM has also been activated in support of search and rescue operations for missing seniors, as well as feeding operations for firefighters during large wildfires.

Under the direction of Grayson County Office of Emergency Management and local response agencies, CERT teams can provide critical support by giving immediate assistance to victims, providing damage assessment information and organizing other volunteers at a disaster site. Volunteers trained in CERT also offers a potential workforce for performing duties such as shelter support, crowd control and evacuation. The role of a CERT volunteer is to help others until trained emergency personnel arrive.

The CERT program builds strong working relationships between emergency responders and the people they serve. CERT teams also help communities year round by helping with community emergency plans, neighborhood exercises, preparedness outreach, education and safety awareness.

In 95 percent of all emergencies, the victim or bystander provides the first immediate assistance on the scene.

Each year, a new round of classes begins in January, conducted the second Tuesday of each month through September. The training is free and open to the civic minded over 18 years of age. A criminal background check is required.

CERT takes an investment of time: one night each month for nine months. But the training is free and graduates are provided with a CERT go-kit, a backpack full of preparedness tools. The training provides critical skills in emergency preparedness and response. Participants learn how to identify and anticipate hazards, reduce fire hazards in the home and workplace, extinguish small fires, assist emergency responders, conduct light search and rescue, set up medical treatment areas in a team response environment, apply basic medical techniques and help reduce survivor stress.

“Some participants simply complete the training to work on skills and preparedness for their families or workplaces – with no desire to serve in a team environment,” Director of Grayson County OEM Sarah Somers said. “Others sign up for the opportunity to serve as volunteers with like-minded, Grayson County residents. Whatever your motivation, you are welcome.”