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CERT-ified for disaster response

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Newest class of Community Emergency Response Team graduates complete six-week program

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Sarah Cluff, left, reacts to a realistic looking arm wound fashioned out of makeup, that was applied by CERT volunteer Joe Errante. Cluff and her daughter, Shelby, both volunteered to play victims in the training for the first time this year.Imagine you're in a tall building one afternoon when unexpectedly the walls begin to shake; bricks, drywall and dust fall from the ceiling and you're trapped, injured and unsure of what just happened.

Would you know what to do?

The 18 graduates from a recent St. Helens Community Emergency Response Team training program would. The CERT students completed the intensive six-week program last week, Thursday, May 11.

During the course, which was led by CERT training coordinator Holly Haebe and St. Helens Police Chief Terry Moss, the trainees, all of whom are Columbia County residents, learned a swath of skills useful in an emergency.

Trainees received instruction on how to set up an incident command center and conduct search and rescue efforts, as well as how to administer basic, emergency and psychological first aid. Those skills can be used in response to minor natural disasters and large-scale catastrophic situations.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - CERT trainees and other first responders carry an unconscious person to a triage location during a simulated disaster training on Thursday, May 11. Volunteers from the community acted out various roles as victims in the simulation to depict a real-life scenario.On Thursday, the 18 participants went through two simulated scenarios assisting dozens of "injured" people — volunteers who agreed to play the part of victims and other assigned roles — at the Lee Broadbent Training Center, a site on McNulty Way in St. Helens which is primarily used by fire crews for training purposes.

Often, previous CERT graduates come back to volunteer for the simulations and check in on the program. Former graduates, such as Holly Pennock and Brian Evans, said they enjoy seeing new groups of students learn vital skills as a result of the training.

The CERT program has been running in St. Helens since 2011 and has trained 120 volunteers in that time. Cities like Scappoose and Vernonia also offer CERT programs and have graduated 137 trainees combined.