Are you and your family prepared if a major wildfire sweeps through Columbia County next summer? Do you know what you would do if a devastating earthquake hits our area, leveling buildings and cutting off Columbia County from major emergency response assistance for days or weeks?
The St. Helens Police Department (SHPD) is hosting the St. Helens Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) at the department’s monthly First Thursday community meeting. The meeting is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, in the Columbia Center auditorium, located at 375 S. 18th Street.
CERT members will talk about the disaster training course offered to community members each year in St. Helens and the volunteer opportunities available to assist local and regional first responders after graduating the course.
The CERT concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985 to train civilians to meet the immediate emergency needs in their area following a disaster.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expanded on the CERT concept to develop a national program that outlines a clear plan for citizen involvement in all types of hazard situations.
The first St. Helens CERT training was held in 2005 and has been offered every year since then. The six-week course held each spring teaches community members about disaster preparedness, disaster fire suppression, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue operations, and disaster psychology and team organization. After training, attendees practice the skills they have learned in hands-on simulated situations.
First Thursday is a community meeting hosted by the SHPD on the first Thursday of each month, where a new topic is presented related to community safety, crime prevention, police services, or seasonal-specific safety information. After a brief presentation, the community can ask officers and presenters questions, find out what’s happening in St. Helens neighborhoods, and discuss any topics of concern.
According to the SHPD, the goal of First Thursday is to bring the St. Helens community and local law enforcement together once a month for meaningful conversation about the community. The meetings are an opportunity to make connections in the community, not just between police officers and residents, but also between neighbors.