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Training heightens awareness

Highway employees say they also gained emergency skills

Highway employees say they also gained emergency skills

February 01, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

With more than 40 years working at the Washington County Highway Department between them, Eddie Robinson, Arnold Barr and Rick Martz thought they knew all they had to know to do their jobs.

But after completing 16 hours of classroom and practical applications of Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) recently, all three said they now feel equipped to do a better job and to serve the people of Washington County when needed.

"I was surprised at the basics of the course," Martz said. "I learned how to be more aware of my surroundings, to notice strange vehicles and to look closer at people and things."

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Martz, who started out as an operator and now is an assistant supervisor with 11 years under his belt, said the CERT course made him realize that he often would get into a routine on the job and not notice things around him.

"Now, I'm looking around a lot more," he said.

Arnold Barr, a 30-year veteran, works as prison crew coordinator.

"I think the increased awareness is a big plus," he said. "I know it really woke me up. After Sept. 11, we all need to know more."

Last fall, Verna Brown, Washington County emergency management coordinator, approached Highway Department Director Ted Wolford about offering the voluntary class to his employees.

"All 84 employees signed up - from Ted to the girls in the office - so we had 100 percent compliance," Brown said. "And it's not even mandatory."

The training covered areas such as disaster preparedness, fire suppression, medical emergencies, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, terrorism awareness and how to deal with companions/animals in a crisis situation.

Robinson said he is enthusiastic about giving something back to the community. A 20-year veteran who now is a sign mechanic, Robinson said he completed his training at the department's Smithsburg site.

"We actually got to do light search and rescue and evacuation as part of the training," Robinson said.

Martz said before he took the course, he saw his role as a public servant.

"But this has broadened that role because there is now more we can do in an emergency," Martz said.

CPR and first aid already were requirements for highway department employees, but the CERT course enhances that, Brown said.

In addition to Brown, CERT team instructors include Washington County Sheriff's Deputy 1st Class Jim Holsinger; Stoyan Russell, emergency planner with Washington County Emergency Management; Brian Overcash, Washington County's safety compliance administrator; and Annajean McKnight, risk management administrator for the county.

Norman Bassett, Washington County spokesman, said the funds for CERT are completely financed by homeland security grants.

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