County approves Centre Region Community Emergency Response Team

mmorgan@centredaily.comOctober 9, 2013 

— The Centre Region is looking to prepare residents in case of emergency, and it has the approval of the county.

The Board of Commissioners approved a grant agreement at its meeting Tuesday that would provide the Centre Region with nearly $10,500 in state-reimbursed funding to establish a Centre Region Community Emergency Response Team. The grant money comes through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Training would include basic emergency preparedness, basic fire preparedness, light medical, light search and rescue, the basics of first responder protocol and the basics of terrorism, Centre County Emergency Management Director Randy Rockey said.

“The intent of the CERT programs is for the citizens out there to be able to take care of their communities until the first responders can arrive during a disaster,” he said.

Rockey said it’s important to note that these trained residents will not be first responders and neither the county nor the Centre Region will be dispatching them.

The training will show them what to do in an emergency and explain what they should not be doing.

But the idea did get some push-back from the board before the unanimous approval vote.

Commissioner Chris Exarchos said he gets heartburn thinking about a resident running head-first into an emergency when he or she is not adequately trained.

“You give people a hat and a vest and all that, and all of a sudden they think they can go out there and save the world,” he said.

Though the Centre Region will be organizing the program and putting up the funding, all the state reimbursements must run though the county. Rockey said the county would have minimal liability when it comes to injury of residents.

He added that it could be a big help to emergency responders for CERT members to survey the scene and brief them when they arrive.

The training sessions will be open to all county residents, and other municipalities that would be interested in putting together a team would have that opportunity in the future.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said his gut reaction is that educating as many people as possible will be positive if disaster situations arise.

“If you have an incident that occurs, people will respond,” he said. “I think the grant is suggesting that we want these people to be knowledgeable.”

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.

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