Volunteers training for next disaster

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, VA (WWBT) - Between the earthquake in Louisa and Hurricane Irene -- emergency crews have been busy.

Saturday some volunteers from across Metro Richmond started training for the next disaster.

These volunteers are part of the Citizens Emergency Response Team or CERT for short.

Many of these volunteers got their first action during Hurricane Irene helping with the response.

This weekend CERT members responded to a fake disaster to see just how much they've learned from Irene.

The victims and injuries all may have been fake, but this training was real for about two dozen CERT members Saturday.

Thomas Cox is a volunteer from Richmond and he was one of the many people dispatched during Hurricane Irene.

"We had broken wire that was coming down," Cox said. "We were taping off different streets and trying to help people and directing them not to go this way or that way."

He's only been a CERT member for a few months. He admits he made a few mistakes during Irene. That's why he was back at it Saturday.

"You want to help people out as much as you can," he said. "You need to have some expertise. You need to have some know-how. You can bump them and make things worse. You can have good intentions, but if you don't have the knowledge to do certain things you can bring more harm."

CERT members practiced searching for victims and providing basic first aid treatment. The goal is to get situations under control before police, fire or EMS arrive on scene.

Emergency crews say that can help during disasters like Irene.

"When we look at a hurricane or a natural disaster or a tornado or something coming through it can come all at once and depleted our resources - fire, police and EMS - fairly quickly," said Colonial Heights Fire Marshal Joe Boisseau.

This time they have the luxury of evaluating how they did so they can do better next time around.

"All of these things will come into play later on when you get in that same situation," Cox said.  "You can get better and better and better as you go."

Most communities in Metro Richmond have CERT volunteer programs. Chesterfield recently set a goal to adding 500 more CERT volunteers after Irene.

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