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.