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Emergency preparedness is goal of Project Aware

September 15, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

erinc@herald-mail.com

Carol Duvall and her husband, Jim, saw images of the Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina and thought, "What if that happened here?"

Wednesday night, the Hagerstown couple and about eight others at the Washington County Health Department signed up to assist emergency personnel day-to-day and during an emergency. The Duvalls are volunteers with Project Aware - a recruitment and training program to assist the community's homeland security efforts. A small pool of volunteers have joined since the program began in January.

Verna Brown, Washington County Emergency Management Coordinator, said volunteers will receive basic training, but will also use skills they already possess to assist in preparedness efforts.

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Carol Duvall, who did administrative work with Marriott until she retired, said she can do accounting or clerical work, while her husband is an experienced salesman and painter. They hope skills they have, combined with training they will receive, like an upcoming Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class, will help them assist other residents.

"Emergency preparedness is everyone's responsibility," Brown said. "Neighbor has to help neighbor."

Nearly all of the people present Wednesday signed up for CERT - a training program that will prepare them to assist themselves, their families and their neighbors during a disaster. Because emergency personnel may not be able to respond quickly during a large-scale disaster, CERT teaches citizens to save lives and protect property until first responders arrive.

Brown said the county is working to be proactive rather than reactive. Volunteers will be trained and perform community outreach and other responsibilities throughout the year. When there is an emergency or a large-scale disaster in the area, volunteers will know what to do and already be familiar with the training and tasks.

"You know ... town employees can not do everything if something massive happens," Brown said. "It's important for people to help people. You are coming to volunteer, and there is something for everyone to do."

If you are interested in volunteering with Project Aware, call Carl French at 240-313-2907.

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