Citizens learn to prepare for disasters in Hanover

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - You don't have to be a firefighter or paramedic to help out during an emergency. That's the message Hanover County Fire & EMS is sending by teaching everyday folks how to support their community during disaster situations.

People taking CERT classes will learn everything from simple skills like how to use a fire extinguisher to more complicated tasks like how to operate the county's mobile command center.

"We have a light stick; we have a flashlight with batteries; we have gloves with some basic first aid things," said Shellie Mackenize.

Shellie Mackenize shows me what she calls the tools in her toolbox. She went through CERT training with her 16-year-old son, and now feels prepared to handle just about anything. She says she learned everything from home emergency plans to more serious search and rescue techniques.

"They actually staged people throughout the building and you were in complete darkness with a flashlight, and when you came upon a person, they told you what their injuries were, and you had to respond to their injuries and needs," said Mackenzie.

Chief Eddie Buchanan says training people like Shellie to help during emergencies allows first responders to focus on the most serious situations. He responded in the late 90s when a tornado blew through Beaverdam killing two people, and the recent tornadoes reminded him of how nice it is to have extra help from the community.

"We know that a lot of the lives that are saved in a manmade disaster or a natural disaster are saved by bystanders: people who are there immediately and can take immediate action, and these CERT classes give us a way to organize that and mobilize the community to meet those needs," said Buchanan.

The current class is half way over, but Fire & EMS will be offering another one starting this fall. If you don't live here, just check with your local fire department about the opportunities.

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