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Volunteers trained for disasters

November 29, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

Two months ago, Carol Duvall's knowledge of emergency preparedness and response was limited to a CPR course she once took through her employer.

Now, Duvall knows how to extinguish small fires, create arm splints out of a cardboard box and set up a triage unit - deciding which patients need the most immediate care.

Duvall and her husband, James, were two of 21 volunteers who graduated earlier this month from Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. The program provides free basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills. These skills improve survival and allow graduates to assist neighbors until emergency personnel arrive.

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"I feel more comfortable now," Carol Duvall said. "I feel I could at least help in some way."

The six-week program is free to volunteer citizens and covers disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, terrorism preparedness, crime prevention, special population needs, animals in disaster, light search and rescue, and basic incident command.

Sylvia Costello of Hagerstown saw images of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and heard about the possibility of a national avian flu pandemic. But she had no real disaster training before completing CERT.

"Looking at the overall view of the world," she said, "things aren't very friendly."

It was this view that prompted Costello to seek training and special skills she could use to help herself, her family and her neighbors during a disaster.

She said the training primarily taught her to be aware.

Costello said she and others were urged to know their neighbors, who might be available and ready to help in an emergency.

"If there is no help available, you might be able to do something," Costello said. "You just have to know who else is around and who can possibly help."

Costello and Duvall said the search-and-rescue exercises they performed during the training were helpful.

Duvall described it as "light search and rescue," and said she and the other volunteers were taught how to go into a building to find people trapped inside.

"I don't think I could act as a paramedic," Duvall said. "But I probably think I could do something to help until they did arrive."

Another free CERT training is being planned for January. Anyone interested may call Carl French at 240-313-2907 or send e-mail tocfrench@washco-md.net.

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