Custom Quick Reference Information Directories
GCC Blog

We hope you find our articles informative and interesting. If you'd like to receive our monthly newsletter with articles like these, please take a minute to sign up.

In an Emergency, Trained Volunteers May Be the First to Reach Victims

November 5th, 2018 by Guest Communications

Written by: Donald W. Meyers, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash. October 22, 2018

(TNS) — If an earthquake, volcanic eruption, wildfire or flood hits the Yakima Valley, you might not see firefighters or paramedics in your neighborhood for a while.

The experience in other disasters has shown that professional first responders can be overwhelmed as they deal with urgent needs, or they might not be able to get to where people need help because roads and bridges are out.

Instead, help for your neighborhood may come from people in green vests and hard hats like Paul Jenkins, a volunteer coordinator with the county’s Community Emergency Response Team.

“We think the government is going to send the cavalry in any minute,” Jenkins said. “Sometimes, the individual citizen can get there before the cavalry.”

CERT, as the program is known, provides training so people can be better prepared for disasters themselves, as well as help their neighbors and others. They can also assist first responders by staffing an emergency operations center, freeing up personnel for other duties, said Horace Ward, senior emergency planner with the Yakima County Office of Emergency Management.

The program was born out of disaster. During the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, 800 people were rescued by civilian volunteers who dug them out of the rubble. But 100 good Samaritans were killed in the process.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department launched the first program that year, ensuring that people had training to help their neighbors without putting themselves at greater risk of death or injury.

It gained federal sponsorship through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which established a standardized curriculum for the training.

Yakima County’s team began around the time Jenkins joined in 2000.

“I thought it was a good idea, for one thing,” Jenkins said, recalling why he joined. “And it would be a good way to give back to the community. I also like to be prepared for things, and that was a good way to learn.”

Volunteers are given basic first aid training, as well as learning light search-and-rescue techniques and disaster preparedness, skills that Ward said help both them and their neighbors in times of trouble.

“First, you take care of yourself, then your neighbors and others,” Ward said.

The team has quarterly training exercises and participates in events such as a recent drill at the Yakima Air Terminal, as well as activations of the county’s emergency operations center in Union Gap.

While some people may think that firefighters, police and paramedics will be on the scene right away when a disaster strikes, Jenkins said they could easily be swamped with calls for help in an emergency, or the nature of the disaster might cut off access for a time.

Jenkins has been called out for flooding in West Valley, wildfire near Moxee and the Miriam Fire, where he helped distribute literature and provide security at the site. He was also sent to Outlook to help get information and bottled water to residents after an overflowing manure pond contaminated local wells.

While there are 60 people currently trained, Ward and Jenkins would like to see more people get involved, as it will give them skills to cope in a disaster.

And there are jobs for people who may not have the strength — or the stomach — for doing first aid and rescue work in the field.

Ward said CERT volunteers help staff the operating center, usually answering the phones at the center’s “public concern desk” providing people calling in with information. Those volunteers, Ward said, free up firefighters, paramedics and other professionals for other duties.

One person who is considering joining is Scott Mitseff, a local business owner and a volunteer with the county sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team.

“I think it is great to be able to help,” Mitseff said. “We need more people who can volunteer.”

People interested in joining, can contact Ward at or view an online introduction to CERT.



©2018 Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.)

Visit Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

This article appeared on Emergency Management News and is shared with consent:

Guide to Guest Services
Fully customized vinyl information directories for your patients and their visitors. They are easy to update and easy to use.
Guide to Emergency Preparedness
Fully customized quick reference guides to help keep your staff prepared for emergencies.
Guide to Infection Control
Fully customized quick reference guide to help keep your staff prepared for safe infection prevention and control procedures.
Accessories for your guides
Protect your investment by utilizing one of our various mounting systems.
Other Popular Products
Customized products including 3-Ring Binders, Sports Memory Books, Menus, Hotel Directories, and more…