Northern Gila County is blessed with an active cadre of volunteers on the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) ready to assist in emergencies. This trained crew of around 40 extends the reach of the county sheriff’s staff and local police and fire departments — ready to offer first aid, transportation, evacuation and logistics support; security, and traffic control, fire safety education — sometimes even help with flood-preventive sandbagging and damage assessment.

CERT volunteers also provide community education with informational booths at community events throughout the year.

The organization structure includes NGCC, Inc. and CERT Teams in Payson and Pine Strawberry. NGCC, Inc. 501(c)(3) receives donations, owns and maintains equipment to provide support during emergency incidents and community events supports the teams prior, during and after deployment. It is sponsored by The Gila County Sheriff’s Office sponsors it and in turn the volunteers support first responders and community agencies under the authorization of the GCSO.

Active participation in services needs to be requested from the GCSO.

Severe winter weather alerts two weeks ago gave NGCC volunteers a chance to put their training and experience to work: securing their homes and families, then verifying neighbors’ preparedness — and staying watchful and connected through the duration. NGCC personnel were on alert, but not deployed as an organization. The team logged more than 1,500 volunteer hours in 2018. CERT has a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with Banner Payson Medical Center to support Essential Services, i.e., communication personnel/equipment, DeCon training, traffic/parking assistance.

Community Emergency Response Teams started as a federal initiative to educate citizens about potential hazards and train them in life-saving emergency skills. Gila County’s team is one of more than 2,200 registered CERTs across the nation providing critical preparedness and emergency support to their communities.

When disasters strike, these citizen-responders use their specialized training to mobilize teams and help others when emergency services providers are overwhelmed — or not immediately available. Their skills help save lives and property — while improving our community’s preparedness and response capabilities.

In addition to its critical work during emergencies, Northern Gila CERT provides training in basic disaster planning and response skills, enabling residents to better protect themselves and their families in the event of a crisis.

Activities and training are scheduled for April, May and June. Find out more online at northgilacert.com or email CERT Chairman, NGCC, Inc Grant Smith at 1gesconsultant@gmail.com to arrange an educational/informational session.

National Preparedness campaigns

Gila County CERT encourages residents to “think global, act local” by getting involved in two key national emergency preparedness efforts.

Every September is National Preparedness Month (NPM). This annual nationwide and month-long initiative encourages households, communities, and businesses to plan for emergencies. The national preparedness effort encompasses prevention, protection, response, and recovery efforts to prepare for all hazards.

Sponsored by FEMA, NPM offers programs, tools, and resources to help people become self-sufficient in an emergency — enabling first responders to focus on critical needs. These activities present an opportunity for residents to bond together and collaboratively protect the place where they live, each week of September focuses on a theme: Week 1 — Make and Practice Your Plan; Week 2 — Learn Life Saving Skills; Week 3 — Check Your Coverage; and Week 4 — Save For an Emergency.

For year-round preparedness, residents can take part in America’s PrepareAthon, spotlighting actions to be ready for: earthquakes, flood, tornadoes, wildfires, and winter storms. In addition to learning about the hazards that affect Gila County, America’s PrepareAthon! offers an opportunity to participate in 10 key activities, improve personal planning and preparation abilities, become part of the national dialogue, and even plan a local preparedness event.

Previous years’ participants have been recognized by FEMA and other national authorities, receiving press coverage for their events.

Read more at readygila.com.

Contact the reporter 

tmcquerrey@payson.com

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