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Volunteers get CERT-ified

Free weekend program teaches disaster preparedness

Free weekend program teaches disaster preparedness

April 03, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

Whether fire or flood, or the dark of night, that comes with a power outage, one student in a citizens' emergency response class said Sunday she feels better prepared.

"Most of the times when you talk about getting involved in the community, you're talking about building a park here or providing some sort of service, but this is protecting the community if it hits the fan," Cindy Garland said during the third day of a Community Emergency Response Training class.

Garland was among more than 25 Leadership Hagerstown students and other community members who took part this weekend in a program designed to teach people about disaster preparedness. In the classes, students learned skills such as handling fire extinguishers and creating readiness bags, so they could be prepared if disaster strikes, Garland said.

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They also got green bags filled with items like dust masks, gloves and duct tape.

"Just anything you might need if suddenly there's no power and you're on your own," said Garland, who plans on preparing her own "go-pack."

According to Verna Brown, Washington County emergency management coordinator, the free training is offered periodically to people in the community. About 10 or 12 seats are available for the next session, which begins July 12, Brown said.

"It's information that we hope citizens will use to better prepare themselves and their families for all hazards," Brown said.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Deputy 1st Class Jim Holsinger told students during a session on terrorism that community members offer authorities the best eyes and ears for observing suspicious behavior. He told the class the county has been informed twice that it had been "probed" by potential terrorists looking for potential targets.

"They have been here, and they have been stopped, but that's right here at home," he told the class.

Potential targets could include Camp David, schools, rail traffic and the highway system, he said.

Holsinger advised students that they familiarize themselves with their neighbors' routines, so they can identify anything that seems out of the ordinary.

"We can't do it without you," he told students.

Alan Matheny, EMS coordinator for the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, said the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina inspired the Leadership Hagerstown class to take the training. He said he and Garland co-chaired the activity.

"More than likely, it's going to be the flood, the tornado, the hurricane. It's not going - well, hopefully, it's not going to be - the terrorist activity," he said.

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