“Euharlee was in the process of starting a local [Community Emergency Response Team] about the same time I was coming on board with Bartow County as the EMA director. Barry Brown, who was the CERT coordinator for the Euharlee CERT, called and asked if we could meet. During the meeting, he asked if I had any plans on supporting the CERT program. I explained that not only do I support the program but it was on my priority list,” Cuprowski said. “After further discussion, we thought it would be in the best interest of the citizens and the program if we made CERT a countywide initiative.”
The Community Emergency Response Team, a program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations, according to the FEMA website.
Deployed in times when first responders may not be available or have mitigated emergency response needs, a Bartow County CERT unit offers additional benefits beyond a smaller team.
“Operating the CERT from a county level has many benefits such as more recourses, more participants from all around the county — northside to the southside, more opportunity to train and the possibility of some funding from the Citizen Corp., just to name a few,” Cuprowski said.
Cuprowski, who will oversee the operations, training and overall direction of the CERT team, said that times such as the Jan. 30 tornado in Adairsville the program would be useful.
“Teams such as these prove to be very valuable during times of crisis,” he said. “I think about all that has been accomplished in Adairsville over the past 10 months. That process could have been even more efficient and productive if we would have had structure and training in place prior that disaster.
“This county is very special when it comes to our faith-based organizations. They are the best in the country, and our recovery efforts have even been recognized around the country as noted on national television. Just imagine if our faith-based groups were organized to the point that we could make a few calls and get structured teams of good-hearted volunteers trained and ready to work how much more we could accomplish.”
According to FEMA, there are 28 CERTs within a 50-mile radius of Cartersville, with the closest being CERTs from surrounding Cherokee, Cobb and Floyd counties.
For the local team, the first goal is to train citizens. Beyond that, Cuprowski said he hopes to have a structured program in place to aid surrounding areas in times of disaster.
“... We want to have response teams that are trained, credentialed and ready to respond either locally or to surrounding cities or counties that may need help. We want to be able to respond when asked and to fulfill the request with purpose and structure so we may do the most good in the most efficient way possible,” he said. “That is what this program does — it gives structure, training, direction to all those who want to help during a disaster. We would also like to see the CERT team involved with activities around our county during non-emergency times.”
Plans are in place to graduate one class every other month following the basic 20- to 25-hour course. Classes may be scheduled for evenings and weekend.
“At the present time, we have already trained 13 instructors from many different agencies and the private sector and have over 100 citizens signed up for training,” Cuprowski said.
The program is anyone over the age of 16 for training to the CERT basic level. The basic level teaches you how to care for yourself, your family and your neighbors during an emergency.
“For those who are interested in becoming involved in advancing to our actual response team, they will have to participate in a background check by the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department — at no cost to the volunteer — and also they will have to do some advanced training, i.e. CPR, traffic control, search and rescue, ropes and knots, leadership, ICS Incident Command System, NIMS forms and chainsaw operations,” Cuprowski said. “All of the advanced classes would not apply to everyone. It would be depending on your likes, talent and limitability. Not everyone has interest or the capabilities to cut trees but they may have talents in computers or leadership, and that’s what makes it such a great program — there’s something for everyone to do.”
For more information on the Bartow County CERT, visit http://bartowcountycert.org/.