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Preparing for the worst

September 16, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

A program designed to teach emergency preparedness to Washington County residents will get off the ground in November. Before that, the instructors will be trained beginning Monday, Sept. 22.

For two full days - Sept. 22 and Oct. 6 - prospective instructors for the first Community Emergency Response Training program will be in class at 51 N. Potomac St., and at locations around the county, said Verna Brown, Washington County emergency management coordinator.

"This class will include police representatives, emergency medical personnel, firefighters, etc., from whom we will be developing a pool of instructors," Brown said.

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Once the trainers are trained, the first classes for citizens will be scheduled and those who are interested will be able to sign up in November.

The classes are funded by a grant via a program proposed by President Bush through Homeland Security, Brown said. "It will allow neighbors to help neighbors, and employees to help employees in times of emergency," she said.

In addition to disaster preparedness and terrorism awareness, the classes will address more day-to-day situations such as fire suppression, medical emergencies, and light search and rescue, Brown said.

In the past year, she said, area residents have had to deal with power outages, a severe snow storm and more recently, heavy rains and flash flooding.

"There have been several times in recent history that knowing what to do would have eased some of the pressure felt when an emergency happens," Brown said.

Building a partnership between residents and emergency services is the goal, she said. Fire and rescue companies in Washington County are being encouraged to host the program in their neighborhoods.

The training is being built into the curriculum for the next class of the Western Maryland Police Academy in Hagerstown. Sgt. Rick Reynolds, who heads up the academy, will be one of the students in the Sept. 22 class.

Deputy 1st Class Jim Holsinger of the Washington County Sheriff's Department is also in the first class. The training will be given at the next citizens' academy through the sheriff's department.

The Volunteer Fire Department of Halfway is offering the class next spring to its neighborhood watch group and others interested, Brown said.

"Emergency preparedness is everyone's responsibility," Brown said. "The goal is to have the program taught in every community in Washington County."

For more information, call 240-313-2930.

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