Did you ever see a photo of a Community Emergency Response Team all decked out in their CERT wear and think, "Man I wish I could do that?" Well now is your chance to sign up, take the class and wear the gear with pride.

Did you ever see a photo of a Community Emergency Response Team all decked out in their CERT wear and think, "Man I wish I could do that?" Well now is your chance to sign up, take the class and wear the gear with pride.

Grayson County’s Office of Emergency Management coordinates the training and activities of the Grayson County Community Emergency Response Teams or "CERT" and has announced the date of the first session for 2014.

The orientation takes place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Grayson College’s Center for Workplace Learning Auditorium, 6101 Grayson Drive in Denison.

CERT is a training program that prepares you to help yourself, your family, and your 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, you will have the skills to help emergency responders save lives and protect property.

As a trained CERT member, you 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. The first CERT class in Grayson County graduated in September of 2008, said GCOEM Director Sarah Somers.

Soon after, the Dec. 8, 2008, tornadoes struck Grayson County and trained CERT personnel helped drive and walk the impact 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 to make needed repairs, Somers said in a prepared statement.

More recently, in December of 2013, as motorists were stranded by "Icemageddon 2013" and Grayson County OEM moved to open warming centers and shelters in six locations around the County, it was trained CERT members that made that happen working alongside faith-based organizations.

Under the direction of GCOEM 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.

CERTs even helps when there isn’t a disaster. The CERT program builds strong working relationships between emergency responders and the people they serve. CERT teams also help the community year-round by helping with community emergency plans, neighborhood exercises, preparedness outreach, education and safety awareness.

Each year a new round of classes begins in January. The classes take place on 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.

Somers puts it this way: "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. Others sign up for the opportunity to serve as volunteers with like-minded, Grayson County residents. Whatever your motivation, you are welcome."