Columbia, Boone County CERTs Need More Volunteers

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COLUMBIA - The Boone County and Columbia Community Emergency Response Teams participated in their first joint search and rescue training Thursday night.

CERT volunteers were trained to handle large scale disasters that could potentially occur in the community. Volunteers were given a tornado disaster scenario. They broke off into groups and worked to locate eight victims around the Boone County Protection District Training Center. Once victims were identified, volunteers rescued them from cement, rubble and even cars. 

Nancy Franklin has been a CERT volunteer for seven years. She said Columbia and Boone County CERTs joint exercise is important to the success of CERT. 

"That's important because if there is an emergency we will be working side by side and we need to understand each other," Franklin said.

In an event of a large scale, community disaster, local fire districts would call out trained CERT volunteers.

"If we have an event like a tornado such as Joplin happen, it's going to be just a short matter of time before the amount of potential victims that we have or damage is going to overwhelm the local emergency responders," said Columbia Fire Department CERT coordinator and Assistant Fire Marshall Brian Davidson. "Having volunteers that have been trained to come in and supplement and do some of the tasks that maybe aren't quite as technical, but still vital is extremely important."

"We're trained to go out to search and rescue, so we go out and evaluate structure," Franklin said. "We report back what we see, what we find. If there is somebody who is injured we can do basic first aid training, we can back-board people out of an area."

Boone County CERT currently has eight active volunteers, while Columbia CERT has 38. Franklin said she wants to educate citizens on the importance of trained emergency responders and encourage more people to join CERT.

"Eight people from the county are not enough to help out the county or police department," Franklin said. "The number of people they have in Columbia are, again, not quite enough to help those organizations out as much as they need to be."

Franklin said she is a member of CERT because it gives her the ability to help family, neighbors and the community during an emergency situation. 

To find out how you can get involved in Columbia CERT, visit the city's website. To volunteer for Boone County Cert call the Boone County Protection District at 573-447-5000.