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November 10, 2011

Kan. CERT teams facing hurdles

By Alyssa Johnston
Times Record News

WICHITA, Kan. — CERT programs allow citizens to learn disaster preparedness in a different kind of way. The program trains people in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.

"When you have a crisis, if you have people that are trained and know what to do and how to go about the procedures, is much better than someone running out and saying, 'I want to help,' " Pat Norriss, Wichita County Precinct 2 Commissioner, said.

Nortex Regional Planning Commission's Department of Homeland Security helps run CERT programs in 11 surrounding counties, including: Archer, Baylor, Clay, Cottle, Foard, Hardeman, Jack, Montague, Wichita, Wilbarger and Young.

According to Wichita County Emergency Management Director Lee Bourgoin, Wichita County was one of the first counties in the nation to participate in the CERT programs.

"We're not offering the classes right now because we lack participation. There's people that want to take the courses, but there's not people that want to teach it. It's based on a volunteer concept," Bourgoin said.

Bourgoin said classes have been as small as 10 people but as large as 30. However, Mark Hanson, emergency planner for Nortex, said 15 people are really needed to make a class.

"As of now, we still have the program in place, and we still have the equipment. We just don't have enough people who are interested in stepping up to help with the program," Bourgoin said.

Citizen Corps is a parent company of CERT programs, which was created to help coordinate volunteer activities that will make our communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to any emergency situation, according to their website.

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