JAMESTOWN -- A new program could help Moniteau County first responders during large-scale emergencies.
A Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) can assist first responders by helping them assist people affected during disasters. Moniteau County Crime Watch, in hopes of starting a CERT in Moniteau County, hosted the Boone County Office of Emergency Management at the Jamestown Community Building so it might learn more about the program.
Matthew Brown, CERT coordinator for the Boone County Office of Emergency Management, said such teams act as supplemental response to first responders by supporting them during or after disasters, such as severe weather, floods and search operations. The teams operate under sponsoring agencies, such as emergency management agencies, law enforcement agencies or fire departments. CERT programs and how they respond to emergencies are set under policies and procedures developed by the sponsoring agencies.
CERT members receive training through various courses and exercises to prepare for different situations, Brown added. Once certified, members receive an equipment kit packed with apparel, tools and other resources for working an emergency.
During emergencies, Brown said CERT members assist first responders by locating and turning off utilities, extinguishing small fires, treating injuries, helping conduct light search and rescue, and relieving survivor stress. He added that many CERT programs may specialize in a niche unfulfilled in the community -- such as search and rescue, or communication.
The teams also help outside of emergencies. Beth Kyd, a long-time volunteer with Boone County CERT, said the team has assisted agencies with crowd control and first aid at community events. Brown said community involvement is one facet of CERT, with teams distributing smoke alarms and promoting awareness of hazards.
Kyd said the CERT program offers a wealth of information to members.
"The information is amazing, and it's incredibly empowering to feel like you can do something to help," she said.
Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley said sheriff's office leadership discussed starting a "sheriff's posse" with a similar mission, like the Cole County Posse. Volunteers in the Cole County Sheriff's Office program, according to its website, assist the agency with traffic control, DWI checkpoints and more. Cole County Posse members have received conceal and carry, traffic control, personal safety, and weapon retention control training, its website added.
"It's pretty much the same thing," Wheatley said when comparing a sheriff's posse with CERT programs. "They do pretty much the exact same things. The only advantage I see with this over the sheriff's posse is that it's a more independent organization, not relying on me."
Wheatley added that his concern about a sheriff's posse is it can change as a new sheriff is elected. An independent CERT program would be more structured and less likely to change when new officials are sworn into office. Ultimately, Wheatley suggested having the sheriff's office and Moniteau County Office of Emergency Management sponsor a Moniteau County CERT program, if established.
Brown added that CERT is a national program, and those with CERT Basic certification can serve anywhere in the United States.
While Moniteau County does not have a CERT, Brown said people from neighboring counties without a CERT can attend Boone County CERT meetings and training sessions. To learn more about Boone County CERT, Brown can be contacted at [email protected] or 573-554-7900.