Euharlee CERT gains steam, aims for certification
by Jessica Loeding
Jul 28, 2013 | 2885 views | 0 0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With two tornadoes within two years, the need for volunteer response in a disaster is evident. For citizens of Euharlee, forming a community emergency response team to support public safety followed.

Working with Euharlee Police Department at the approval of the city council, the team is looking to grow — perhaps across the county.

“At this point, we will accept anyone who is interested and get them the right pamphlets and let them know what CERT is all about,” said EPD Chief Terry Harget. “We have a core group already together that we are getting ready to train.

“Bartow County, as a county, doesn’t have one. We first thought about just having it in the city of Euharlee, just to respond, to help support emergency services. But, then, in talking with different organizations in the county they said they’d been waiting for this type organization to develop like it has in Cobb for years.”

Barry Brown, operator of Bartow County Scanner and head of the CERT team, said the program stems from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and requires the group to complete 20 hours of training, which he hopes will occur in August.

“Once certified, we still have to do some drill trainings and stuff like that, but once you’ve got the 20 hours in, you are officially a CERT team. You can respond, like you said if called upon, to assist in any type emergency situation,” he said.

Bartow County Fire Department and other agencies have expressed interest in helping support and train the team.

“Then we mentioned to the United Way, Brenda Morehouse, and she basically put it to her board. Basically the board of United Way wants to get involved, and ... the way we are looking at it right now is maybe starting in Euharlee ... I think it’s going to evolve into a countywide program,” Harget said.

Although this year’s tornado in Adairsville comes to mind, both Harget and Brown said CERT teams can be utilized in various roles.

“You take the disaster in Adairsville, which became an opportunity for many people to shine after it happened,” Harget said. “Could that happen in Euharlee? It almost did with Plant Bowen. We are going to be prepared when the situation occurs.”

“The initial idea was for it to be a response unit to help support fire and the EMA in a disaster. That was the original goal,” Brown added. “Now many CERTs have taken on other roles like traffic enforcement [for special events].

“Euharlee has had, I know since I’ve been here, several instances where people [were] missing. Especially with the river here, I know that’s a big concern. If someone goes in the river, a CERT team can help do, not full-time search and rescue but light search and rescue.”

Bartow County Fire Chief and acting EMA Director Craig Millsap said alternative uses for the agency could be explored in the future.

“As has been shown around the state, an active CERT team would be very beneficial depending on the situation. CERT teams are utilized in numerous ways depending on the jurisdiction and how the have been set up,” he said. “There are still a lot of questions to be answered as we look at how the team would be utilized here. The role of CERT’s varies tremendously depending on where they are. I have seen places where the CERT teams direct traffic for major public events and gatherings. I know of some fire departments that utilize their local CERT team to provide the rehab services on large scale fires. There are numerous alternatives that can be explored as a team develops.”

Disaster response, however, likely would be infrequent.

“Hopefully [CERT is never utilized] because, if it’s being utilized, it means something is bad wrong usually,” Brown said. “I know most CERT teams may be called out once or twice in two or three years and most of that is helping other communities.”

Millsap agreed.

“Again, depending on how the team is set up and what their role ends up being defined as, there is no way to know exactly how often they would be utilized,” he said. “In the traditional aspect of a CERT team, they would only be activated in a large scale event such as during the tornado that took place in Adairsville. Going on that, the team most likely would only be mobilized maybe once or twice a year, depending on what happens.”

Although mobilized in an emergency, Harget stresses CERT is not a replacement for public safety services.

“We are not going to do their job. We are not going to do the police job, the fire job or emergency response services’ job,” he said. “We would only be called out when they called and asked us to help out. We are not going to show up on scene and be the first ones there. We are not going to show up on scene and try and do something we are not capable of. Our job is just to support.”

As an “asset” to public servants, the chief added a CERT team improves service to the community.

“I think it is something that is needed,” he said. “There is not a lot of funds. I think we are all stretching our budgets now and doing more with less, and with a volunteer CERT team, that could really add to helping us do a very good job for our citizens.”

For more information on CERT or to fill out an application, visit euharleecert.org or find Euharlee CERT on Facebook. The agency also is seeking monetary or equipment donations from private individuals or businesses.