Simulating a collapsed building, students learn how to work together to rescue a trapped (fake) woman in a previous Island County class that teaches emergency preparedness. Photo provided

Simulating a collapsed building, students learn how to work together to rescue a trapped (fake) woman in a previous Island County class that teaches emergency preparedness. Photo provided

Class teaches disaster readiness

‘There’s no reason not to be prepared’

Jody Jeffers wants you to be prepared.

So, if you’re not ready when the earth cracks up or the ocean swallows your house, don’t complain.

She doesn’t want to hear it.

“We know the Big One is coming,” said Jeffers, coordinator of free training classes called Community Emergency Response Team or CERT. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

“There’s no reason not to be prepared.”

JEFFERS HAS led Island County’s CERT classes the past two years as a volunteer, devoting some 20 hours weekly preparing to teach how to be prepared.

Open to all residents, the 20 hours of instruction are given over a three-day period at area fire departments. She’s taught people from 12 to 80 years old.

The next offering is Feb. 23-25 at the Coupeville Fire Station in Greenbank; there’s still time to register. Classes are also taught throughout the year in South Whidbey, Freeland, Oak Harbor and Camano Island and are limited to 20 people.

CERT IS a nationally-developed program offered at local fire stations where firefighters and other emergency responders teach some of the skills.

Disaster first-aid, basic firefighting, emergency communication and basic search and rescue are among the skills taught. Students learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher, how to properly carry an injured or unconscious person and what disaster-ready supplies to have on hand.

Besides enough food and water to last two weeks, flashlights, solar-powered weather band radios, gloves, a hard hat and face mask are basic recommendations.

The class culminates in students participating in simulated drills, such as responding to a collapsed house or mass casualty event.

“We work on triage, who needs the most help now and who can become a helper,” Jeffers said.

NEIGHBORS HELPING neighbors is CERT’s mission. Extensive training on one skill, such as advanced CPR, isn’t taught because starting CPR on a victim requires committing to care for that one person indefinitely.

“We’re committed to the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” she explained.

Helping one person suffering a heart attack out of 16 victims at a scene doesn’t follow that strategy.

“It’s hard. But you have to look at your medical resources, which is you.”

CERT has been taught around Island County since the 1990s. It’s overseen by the county’s Department of Emergency Management.

JEFFERS ESTIMATES there are about 300 people who’ve attended CERT classes and received certification.

Of those, only about 75 to 80 have kept up with required training and are registered with local officials.

In the event of a natural or man-made disaster, trained CERT volunteers can be called out. On Whidbey, flooding is an example of when CERT volunteers could be filling sand bags.

But mass response is not CERT’s purpose. The focus is staying in your own neighborhood and checking on surrounding families.

There’s a limited number of trained first responders on Whidbey Island who must answer 911 calls in the order received, so having CERT volunteers spread around helps, Jeffers said.

“If there’s a true disaster, you may not have emergency personnel for two hours or two days,” she said.

“We live on an island with a very large population of people who are older and retired.

“We need to look out for each other.”

Jody Jeffers sorts through the supplies she keeps in her emergency pack. Jeffers coordinates county classes called Community Emergency Response Team, which are offered free to the public. Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Jody Jeffers sorts through the supplies she keeps in her emergency pack. Jeffers coordinates county classes called Community Emergency Response Team, which are offered free to the public. Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

A flashlight, helmet, gloves, flagging tape and notepads are part of essential items kept inside the back pack of Jody Jeffers.

A flashlight, helmet, gloves, flagging tape and notepads are part of essential items kept inside the back pack of Jody Jeffers.

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