CERT Team: On Deck for Emergencies

Wielding the fire axe with members of our Long Grove CERT Team.

Wielding the fire axe with members of our Long Grove CERT Team.

The Long Grove Fire Protection District held an open house this fall during National Fire Prevention Week and the CERT team was on hand to take part in the festivities. In addition to answering questions and interacting with the public, they found time to dress me up in a Fire Chief vest and they even let me get up close and personal with a fire axe! I learned many interesting things about this dedicated group of community volunteers that day, starting with the meaning of their acronym CERT: Community Emergency Response Team. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the formation of our Long Grove team, which works hand-in-hand with our local first responders to provide extra assistance in special emergency situations. Some of the types of service our CERT volunteers provide include traffic direction, shoveling snow for the elderly and disabled, informing residents in cases of suspected gas leaks or downed power lines, and clearing fallen trees with their trusty power tools.

To get a little more insight into the experience of being a CERT member, I called my friend and fellow resident Walter Roth. A three-year veteran of the program, Walter happily answered a few of my questions:

What type of training did you initially have to undergo to become a member of the CERT team?
Walter: It was a nine week process. We met for three hours every Tuesday evening, and the training focused on areas such as First Aid, Search & Rescue, and CPR.

Did you have to train out in the field, and do you have ongoing education sessions?
Walter: Yes, as a matter of fact in late September I attended a weekend training seminar sponsored by Illinois Search and Rescue. This was held at Lakewood Forest Preserve and included four hours of classroom instruction and 12 hours of field work. The outdoor sessions focused on helping us sharpen our skills in looking for lost people and evidence. The instructors hid a deck of playing cards throughout the forest preserve and we had to find as many as possible using special observation techniques and reminding ourselves to look for things that are not always obvious. The average untrained volunteer will only have a 25% success rate at this kind of task, as opposed to trained volunteers like our CERT team members, who average closer to 80 or 90%. My personal experience with this has taught me to push past any bias and not make assumptions in a situation—a lot of evidence can be overlooked by making incorrect assumptions.

Have you had any experience so far that sticks out in your mind as a defining moment of your CERT service?
Walter: In April of 2014 we were called into service in the middle of the night to assist with the house explosion in Royal Melbourne. Our CERT team was tasked with doing building assessments and looking for anyone who might be injured in neighborhoods adjoining Royal Melbourne and across the golf course from the explosion site. It was just amazing to be on hand to see how much damage had occurred and to be able to be helpful in a time of need for our community.

I want to take a moment in this season of Thanksgiving to appreciate Walter and all his colleagues on the CERT team for their ongoing service to our community. On behalf of the Village Board and all the residents, Thank You! For more information on this program, be sure to check out their website: slcrcert.org.

Mindful Parenting

L to R: Olivia Sorenson, Dianna Kesner, Cristina Cortesi, and I get ready to speak at the Stand Strong "Mindful Parenting" presentation on November 9th, 2015.

L to R: Olivia Sorenson, Dianna Kesner, Cristina Cortesi, and I get ready to speak at the Stand Strong “Mindful Parenting” presentation on November 9th, 2015.

Royal Melbourne Homeowners Association provided a resource to our community last Monday evening by hosting a “Mindful Parenting” seminar on Youth Substance Use Prevention. Three members of the Stand Strong Coalition from Stevenson High School were on hand to talk to parents and answer questions: Dr. Christina Cortesi, SHS Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator, Detective Chris Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, and SHS Senior Olivia Sorenson, who shared her personal experiences and perspectives.

The Stand Strong Coalition was formed to help educate parents and teens on the health risks associated with alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug abuse in young adults, without being judgmental. The purpose is to change cultural norms by getting the community engaged in strategies for change, such as being aware of the risks and consequences of social hosting. In less than two years, Stand Strong has qualified for a $625,000 federal grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and this will go a long way towards helping spread the positive message. I am proud to represent Long Grove as a member of this organization.

SHS parent and fearless leader Jamie Epstein, who is one of the founders of Stand Strong and now serves as our coordinator, was called away at the last minute to receive an award for Community Service from Congressman Dold the night of our Royal Melbourne presentation. I stepped in to fill her shoes with opening remarks and introductions but I am only one small part of the stakeholders in our community who have come together to help this organization grow and succeed. And thanks to residents like those at Royal Melbourne, we are spreading the message one neighborhood at a time.


Power of the Purse

One of the purses auctioned off today to benefit United Way of Lake County.

One of the purses auctioned off today to benefit United Way of Lake County.

Earlier this year, I was asked to join the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County. As Village President, I receive many offers to serve on committees and attend fundraising events for worthy causes, and as much as I would like to, there aren’t enough hours in the day to participate in them all. Today’s fundraiser for WLC, “Power of the Purse,” was a great reminder of why I have chosen to volunteer my time and resources to this impressive group of women.

Made up of corporate professionals, entrepreneurs, elected officials, retirees, teachers, stay-at-home-moms and volunteers, the Women’s Leadership Council uses our collective  power to make a difference in early childhood literacy programs in Lake County. The “Little Kids, Big Futures” Philanthropy Fund helps provide enrichment such as a kindergarten readiness program in Round Lake, and a Kindergarten Countdown Camp in Waukegan. Our goal in WLC is to do our best to make sure Lake County’s most vulnerable children are prepared to start school on track. Since 2013, the group has granted nearly $75,000 to help prepare our youngest residents to succeed in life.

I have had such a positive experience working with and getting to know the other women in the WLC. Today’s luncheon proved that you can have fun and games and philanthropy all at the same time. I ended up winning a bottle of wine, and my friend Susan scored a beautiful new purse in the silent auction. We made memories in the photo booth, and helped build a preschool library for an area school. It was altogether a lovely day and proved yet again, dynamic women banding together can enable great things to happen!