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County offers free emergency management training

Clayton County Emergency Management, a division of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services department, will offer free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training next week.

According to organizers, the class –– scheduled from March 8 to March 12 –– will teach regular citizens what they need to know to help public safety authorities, and themselves, in the event of a widespread emergency or disaster. The class will last from 8:30 a.m., to 12:30 p.m., daily.

Stacy Pate-Kirkwood, a homeland security officer with Clayton County Emergency Management, said next week's class will be the first CERT training course the county has offered this year. She said that by the end of the one-week course, regular citizens will know how to dress wounds, apply splints, assess natural and man-made disasters, and conduct basic rescue techniques.

"The typical lay person, who is caught in a disaster, is dependent on rescue workers and law enforcement," Pate-Kirkwood said. "Unfortunately, if we have a disaster with a population of 274,000 people, we don't have enough emergency personnel to respond. In times of disaster, people should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours, and that's what this course does. This teaches you how to self-assist and assist neighbors, and be prepared in your own home."

Pate-Kirkwood said that the 20-hour course will cover several topics, including disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical assistance, search-and-rescue operations, disaster psychology, and terrorism. She said during the course, participants will learn how to: respond to earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and other disasters; the basics of triage and treating life-threatening conditions; how to systematically search houses and rubble for victims; and safety techniques for lifting, weight-leveraging, and cribbing — a technique in which a lever is used to lift large objects off of a victim.

After the course, the participants will take a written test, Pate Kirkwood said. Graduates of the course will able to take other advanced CERT courses, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) training, and storm spotting.

"I think it's an invaluable resource," said Landry Merkison, battalion chief of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department. "Anytime you have a major disaster, your resources are the first thing that gets depleted. When you have that group of people who understand your procedures and how you operate, it makes it that much easier."

The CERT course will take place in the community room of the Clayton County Police Headquarters building, located at 7911 North McDonough St., in Jonesboro. For more information, call (770) 478-8271, or e-mail ema@co.clayton.ga.us.