BARSTOW If Barstow were to experience a major disaster it would take emergency officials up to 14 days to reach everyone needing help, according to Barstow Fire Protection Chief Darrell Jauss.

To better prepare for disaster, man-made or natural, the Barstow Fire Protection Board created the Community Emergency Response Team, which recognized its first certified class during Thursday's fire board meeting.

Twenty-five CERT members were certified Feb. 4 after completing 24 hours of training in safety and rescue procedures, CERT coordinator and former-Fire Chief Dale Milligan said. The trainees learned everything from searching a building to operating a fire extinguisher. But Milligan said the most important thing they learned was how to stay safe while responding to emergencies.

"Without the training the people that would come into help (in disasters), theyr'e going to do things that they're not trained to do...and put themselves in harms way," Milligan said. "(The training) gives you a structured way to go whenever you want to help in a rescue operation."

In the event of a disaster, the responders will be tasked with conducting primary searches in their neighborhoods for wounded or trapped people, Jauss said. They will then be able to contact emergency officials to report serious situations needing attention.

"The main purpose is to prepare the neighborhoods or the community for disaster," Jauss said.

In a disaster, there are going to be volunteer citizens who show up who just want to help, Jauss said. Their goal is to teach citizens how to be most effective while remaining safe and free from injury.

CERT is part of the Barstow Citizens Corps, which also includes Neighborhood Watch and the Community Oritented Policing, or COP program.

The fire district pays for CERT training, which costs is $1,500 per class and $50 per person for background checks. CERT members will receive emergency response gear, such as safety helmets, provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"I think it's a very worthwhile program," Jauss said. "The more we have in the community, the better the community will do in a major disaster."

Milligan and Jauss are looking to fill the second CERT class of another 25 citizens who want to prepare for disaster. The class requires 20 hours of training, spread over three Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information or to sign up contact the fire department at (760) 256-2254 or Milligan at (760) 985-5513.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or klucia@desertdispatch.com