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CERT Offers Community-Driven Disaster Response

Written by on Friday, June 7, 2024

Sixty neighborhoods in Sarasota organize, anticipating an active hurricane season.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: June 7, 2024

Host: Hurricane season is upon us, and most people are looking to the county and its emergency chief for guidance, maybe even the federal government and FEMA. But did you know there’s grassroots disaster response organizing going on? Ramon Lopez took part in a drill in his own neighborhood.

Ramon Lopez: The 2024 Hurricane season officially began on June 1st, and weather forecasters are warning Floridians to brace for a busy period. NOAA’s official forecast calls for 17-25 named storms, of which 8-13 may become hurricanes. It is the largest number of named storms ever forecast by NOAA, surpassing the 14-23 range predicted in 2010. This hurricane season goes to Nov. 30th.

Two years ago, Hurricane Ian impacted the entire southwest coast of Florida, and Sarasota County was not spared. The killer storm’s impact could have been much worse, as evidenced by the catastrophic damage in Lee County. A small 20-mile shift in Ian’s track would have brought severe storm surge to Sarasota County’s coast. This underscores the need to take action now in preparing for the hurricane season.

The Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center is the command center for the county’s preparation for hurricanes and other natural disasters. But personnel there rely on others — including neighborhood first responders with life-saving skills — to help out.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a national volunteer organization that provides individuals with basic disaster response skills. CERT members assist others in their community during an emergency when full-time first responders may not be immediately available to help.

CERT members saving a “survivor”

There are 60 CERT groups formed in Sarasota County. And the Calusa Lakes Community Emergency Response Team (CL CERT) in Nokomis recently conducted its annual training exercise. There was the customary medical CPR and AED training, firefighting instruction, plus search and rescue and patient recovery exercises, for the Calusa Lakes resident team members. Members of the Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department also participated in the community drill, providing useful tips on natural disaster response, lifesaving methods, and the proper use of fire extinguishers.

And thanks to the support of drone-savvy Calusa Lakes residents, unmanned air vehicle flew to show how such technology can be used to improve SAR capabilities. Twenty Calusa Lakes resident team members participated in the three-hour CERT drill. A golf cart parking area was converted into a fully functioning command center for CERT. A triage area was set up and manned by members with medical training. CERT SAR team members, trained to scrutinize damaged houses, transported an injured ‘survivor’ of the mock natural disaster to the triage for treatment.

The increased threat of hurricanes and tornadoes are somber reminders of the need for emergency preparedness, and the role that CERT plays in helping to ensure the safety of local residents in times of trouble.

Of particular concern are the medically dependent. Sarasota County residents with qualifying medical needs should apply for the county’s Medical Needs Program. They will then be transported and sheltered at a medically dependent evacuation center during a disaster.

Reporting from Sarasota, this has been Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.

To learn more on the Medical Needs Program, go to: https://www.scgov.net/MedicalNeedsProgram

For more information on CERT, go to: https://www.scgov.net/government/emergency-services/community-emergency-response-teams-cert

WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.