New group on Key Pen focuses on emergency response training


Rodika Tollefson, KP News

Ron and Susan Hardy practice to take off gloves (covered with shaving cream) during a CERT class exercise. Photo by Rodika Tollefson


Peninsula CERT group plans to bring regular emergency preparedness classes to Key Peninsula and Gig Harbor.

A newly created Community Emergency Response Team in Gig Harbor plans to bring more emergency preparedness training to both peninsulas. The group, which is sponsored by the Gig Harbor Latter Day Saints Church (which includes the Key Pen ward), conducted a class on the Key Peninsula earlier this summer, and is planning to bring back more.

“This is our first year on this side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge,” said Ken Roberts, director for public outreach for the Gig Harbor LDS and a CERT trainer who organized the class. “This is a community program.”

CERT is a program created by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in mid-1980s and later adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a training tool around the country. Washington state has various CERT groups, which are usually affiliated with a county or city disaster planning agency. The program combines classroom training with simulation exercises including a drill at the fire department and search and rescue in a dark environment. Trainers receive credentials through the state and are often volunteers.

The church has donated the use of its space for the training, and the $10 class fee helps defray costs of materials (the manual costs $25, according to Roberts).

Roberts said the goal was to make the training available to anyone interested in the community. “We can train anybody, no matter their disabilities, even people in wheelchairs, and we even have materials in Braille,” he said.

He said people who receive the training do not self-mobilize in a disaster, but they can be called with other community volunteer responders under the incident command structure.

“If there’s a big earthquake, Purdy Bridge would be closed or down and Key Peninsula (residents) will be by themselves. All they’ll have for help is Fire District 16,” said Roberts, who is also on the board of Peninsula Emergency Preparedness Committee, or PEP-C. “Their first responders are very minimal. … We’re an augment, the next line.”

The Peninsula CERT group, which was created earlier this year, plans to offer about three training sessions per year. Each session consists of several all-day classes (usually on weekends), and drills are conducted periodically beyond that to help members maintain their skills. Training includes first aid, search and rescue, including in collapsed structures, and a variety of other situations.

“There’s a lot of techniques we learn that can come in handy day to day, like helping in other emergencies before first responders arrive,” Roberts said. “But we don’t get involved in police action such as burglaries.”

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