Group offering disaster classes

GREENFIELD — Leaders of a local disaster readiness group are gearing up for the program’s next stretch of classes, and they are appealing to residents to sign up and equip themselves with invaluable emergency response skills.

The Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, is a disaster preparedness program accredited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It is charged with training community members to have basic disaster response skills, including first aid, fire safety and how to organize a search team, said Greg Hicks, the Hancock County CERT program manager.

In the event of sizable disasters — when first-responders might be outnumbered by those in need — those certified by CERT could step in and serve as the first line of defense for their friends and neighbors, Hicks said.

The local group operates as a branch of Hancock County Emergency Management. As police or fire and rescue crews rush to the hardest-hit areas, those community members trained by CERT could step up and fill in the gaps, said Misty Moore, director of emergency management.

“It equips residents with the skills they need to help themselves,” Moore said.

Hicks’ goal is to have as many community members trained by CERT as possible so emergency responses in a disaster can run more smoothly.

An upcoming seven-week training course is open to the public and offers basic lessons in medical techniques, disaster psychology and an array of other topics, things residents should know at any given time, Hicks said.

In the event of a disaster, CERT members could organize quickly and coordinate their efforts with emergency crews, said Hicks, a former search and rescue worker.

More than 2,200 CERT groups are registered across the country, according to the FEMA website.

The group began in Hancock County about two years ago when former Hancock County Emergency Management director Larry Ervin spearheaded an attempt to streamline disaster response in the county and get volunteers involved in those efforts. From there, programs like CERT and Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) were started.

The two groups have the same ultimate goal — getting people in the community to safety and helping residents get back on their feet. But the groups do this work in different ways, said Jim Peters, COAD chairman.

Where COAD focuses on organizing local nonprofit groups ready to help, CERT responds on a more immediate and personal level, he said; those in the CERT have the skills to attend to their own household first.

“(COAD members) have to take care of their friends and family first before they can move on the help others,” he said.

CERT holds training classes periodically throughout the year, but organizers have had trouble getting residents to attend, Hicks said.

Training will be offered on Monday nights from Oct. 5 to Nov. 16. The classes run from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center, 640 S. Franklin St., Greenfield.

Anyone 18 years or older may attend the free training.

Each class covers a different topic; Hicks said attendees should commit to coming to as many classes as possible.

For more information, contact Hicks, 317-501-5389 or email at

Get involved

The Community Emergency Response Team will offer disaster readiness training on Monday nights beginning Oct. 5 for seven weeks. The classes run from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center, 640 S. Franklin St., Greenfield. Anyone 18 and older may attend.

For more information, contact Greg Hicks, 317-501-5389 or

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or