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Emergency training key to community readiness

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

This week, Clayton County employees, from several departments, are getting a crash course in emergency preparedness procedures, including putting out fires.

Eight employees are participating in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training taking place through Friday at fire station 13, located at 264 N. Main Street, in Jonesboro.

The training is a program of the Clayton County Fire & Emergency Services Department and the county's Emergency Management Agency.

Kamardi Carter, a senior elections and registrations official with the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration, who is participating in the training, said the class is important because "you never know when a natural disaster, or man-made disaster, will happen in the community. It helps you know what to do in the event of a disaster."

Other departments participating include: the Clayton County Sheriff's Office, the Correctional Institute, and the county's Information and Technology Department.

Although this week's class is specifically for county employees, previous classes, such as one held in January, have included "lay people," according to Stacy Pate-Kirkwood, Homeland Security Officer for the Clayton County Emergency Management Agency.

She said any county resident may sign up for future classes. The classes are free of charge, according to Clayton Fire Department Battalion Chief Landry Merkison.

The CERT program is designed to help neighborhoods prepare for, and respond after, various disasters, such as flooding, severe weather and other major emergencies, Pate-Kirkwood said.

"Through the CERT program, citizens are better able to respond to an emergency or disaster," said Michael D. Brown, the state's under secretary of Homeland Security for emergency preparedness and response, in a written statement. "This is an essential way for citizens to help secure the homeland, by supporting the work of our professional first responders."

Subjects being covered in this week's class include fire safety, emergency medical procedures, and search-and-rescue operations. Individuals completing CERT training may affiliated with one or more of the following teams:

· Neighborhood CERT -- Ten or more neighbors serving an immediate residential neighborhood.

· Business or Government CERT -- Co-workers serving places of business and surrounding areas, or county, municipal or state agency employees.

· School CERT -- School faculty and staff serving a school and its surrounding area.

· Faith-Based CERT -- Teams based at a house of worship, who serve the immediate neighborhood, or travel to other areas that need assistance.

· Youth CERT -- Organized, service-oriented groups, such as the Civil Air Patrol, Fire or Police Explorers

To register, or get more information about future classes, call the Clayton County Emergency Management Office at (770) 478-8271.