Chesterfield Co. seeking volunteers for disaster response team

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Are there some things you wish you had done differently when Hurricane Irene hit? Chesterfield County says it can help you better prepare for the next big storm. It already has 500 trained to act as backup for all emergency responders and the county wants about 500 more!

Putting out fires isn't something Lisa Staup ever pictured herself doing.

"I panic in emergency situations," said Staup.

Tuesday night, she practiced responding to one in case a firefighter couldn't. During Hurricane Irene, her power went out and her phone died.

"I was helpless!" explained Staup. "I wish I was better prepared. I wish I had taken this class before Irene. I had half of my emergency kit."

Now, instead of being a part of the problem, Staup will join about 500 other CERT volunteers in Chesterfield County resolving problems...

"Once they have the training, they can assist our fire department people because it's a possibility," said David Palumbo, a CERT trainer. "We might not be able to get into an area as quick as we would like to due to the downed power lines or trees or whatever."

"After the storm was over, they would walk their neighborhood and then report back to me the downed trees, trees on homes," said Sherri Laffoon, the county's CERT coordinator. "They checked on their neighbors to make sure everybody was ok."

Teams also manned fire stations, while crews were out--providing a safe place for those without power to charge medical equipment.

"That's the biggest thing that this whole program is hinged on is neighbors helping neighbors," said Palumbo.

Through training, officials say participants also learn to be self sufficient

"Everything is useful!" said C. H. Newman Jr., who is also getting CERT training. "You always think of something that you should have done before an emergency situation.

This course so far has reminded me of some things that I should have known to begin with."

"We're telling them what to do and how not and it makes a real difference in saving lives," said Ray George, a CERT instructor.

Click here to find a CERT program near you.

Click here to see the Chesterfield County CERT program or register for classes.

You can also call 1-804-751-CERT.

Upcoming Classes:

October 4-27 (Tuesday & Thursday mornings 8:30a.m. - Noon)

November 1-29 (Tuesday & Thursday evenings 6:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.)

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