Twin Lakes Area Community Emergency Response Team
TWIN LAKES AREA
COMMUNITY EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM
Baxter County CERT
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is CERT?

A:
This question is best answered by our Mission Statement.
Baxter County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) was formed by citizens of the communities and workplaces in Baxter County who want to better prepare for the hazards that threaten our communities.  Our Mission is to do the most good for the greatest number of people by extending the capabilities of response organizations to minimize loss of life and damage to property.  Our Goal is to prepare ourselves, our families, our neighbors, workplaces and our communities-at-large because disasters may overwhelm emergency response resources.  Before a disaster, Baxter County CERT will focus on emergency preparedness and hazard mitigation.  In response to a disaster, Baxter County CERT may operate directly, or assist responders in activities to save or sustain lives and protect property.  Baxter County CERT will also strive to become known as a trusted volunteer resource that can actively support the response community in many ways, such as helping with community Safety Projects and preparing our neighborhoods and workplaces.  Baxter County CERT will be a well organized, well trained and well managed volunteer group providing highly affective critical support activities.  The safety of everyone is our number one priority.

Q: How does CERT benefit the community?

A:
People who go through CERT training have a better understanding of the potential threats to their home, workplace and community and can take the right steps to lessen the effects of these hazards on themselves, their homes or workplace. If a disaster happens that overwhelms local response capability, CERT members can apply the training learned in the classroom and during exercises to give critical support to their family, loved ones, neighbors or associates in their immediate area until help arrives. When help does arrive, CERTs provide useful information to responders and support their efforts, as directed, at the disaster site. CERT members can also assist with non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the community. CERTs have been used to distribute and/or install smoke alarms, replace smoke alarm batteries in the home of elderly, distribute disaster education material, provide services at special events, such as parades, sporting events, concerts and more.



Q: Is there a CERT near me?

A:
YES! Baxter County CERT serves the Twin Lakes Area (Baxter County) and is based in Mountain Home. 

Q: How was the Baxter County CERT program started?

A:
CERT requires a partnership between community members and local government, emergency management and response agencies. The program does take a commitment of time and resources from all parties. Interested community members discussed with local government and emergency management officials ways to improve their community's preparedness capability and how they can be involved. The Baxter County CERT Program is a direct outcome of these discussions.  We are officially sponsored by the Office of Baxter County Judge Joe Bodenhamer.  We work directly in support of and in cooperation with the Baxter County Office of Emergency Management and all local, County and State Emergency Response Agencies.  We offer a wide range of education programs and have an active CERT training program that prepares participants to be part of the community's response capability following major disasters. We have developed and closely follow a plan that covers training, maintenance and activation standards as well as administrative requirements like databases and funding.  Baxter County CERT follows the principals of the Incident Command System (ICS) which is the national standard for emergency incident response operations and command.  All Baxter County CERT Volunteers are required to complete the ICS Training.

Q: How is the Baxter County CERT Program funded?

A:
Congress has provided funds through the Citizen Corps program to the States and Territories. Grants from these funds are available to local communities to start CERT programs. Baxter County CERT has received grants to initially fund the program.
Also, we are very fortunate to have a business community that generously supports Baxter County CERT through donations of materials and supplies.  We also can accept material and financial donations from individuals, groups or businesses.

Q: Why take the CERT training?

A:
Local government prepares for everyday emergencies. However, there can be an emergency or disaster that can overwhelm the community's immediate response capability. While adjacent jurisdictions, State and Federal resources can activate to help, there may be a delay for them getting to those who need them. The primary reason for CERT training is to give people the decision-making, organizational, and practical skills to offer immediate assistance to family members, neighbors, and associates while waiting for help. While people will respond to others in need without the training, the goal of the CERT program is to help people do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.
One success story about CERTs comes from events during the wildfires in Florida. The Edgewater CERT helped emergency management and the fire department personnel by assisting with evacuation; handling donations; preparing food for firefighters; and answering the phone while the professionals were fighting the fire. This is a great example of CERT members and response personnel working together for the benefit of the community.

Q: Who can take the training?

A:
Naturals for the training are: neighborhood watch, community organizations, communities of faith, school staff, workplace employees, scouting organizations and other groups that come together regularly for a common purpose. CERT skills are useful in disaster and everyday life events.  We welcome everyone!

Q: How do I take CERT training?

A:
To become a CERT member, you will have to take the CERT training from a sponsoring agency like an emergency management agency, fire department or police department in the area where you live or work. Baxter County CERT will soon have our own Certified CERT Trainers and will conduct the required training in scheduled classroom sessions. Check this web site often for updates on Training subjects and schedules.  Use the CONTACT US link on this web site to complete an on-line request for a membership application by email.

Q: What if I want to do more than just the basic training?

A:
CERT members can increase their knowledge and capability by attending classes provided by other community agencies on animal care, special needs concerns, donation management, community relations, shelter management, debris removal, utilities control, advanced first aid, Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) use, CPR skills, and others. Baxter County CERT will maintain records of this training and call upon CERT members when these additional skills are needed in the community.

CERT members also can use their skills to help the program flourish by volunteering to help with schedule events, perform administrative work, and take leadership positions.  We are an organization of Volunteers and we need as many as possible in order to maximize our preparedness.  Our goal is to have 1 of every 25 citizens in Baxter County CERT Trained.


Q: How do CERT members maintain their skills?

A:
Baxter County CERT works together with all Volunteers to maintain team skills and the working partnership. Baxter County CERT will conduct refresher classes and an annual exercise in which all CERT members are invited to participate. Baxter County CERT will also participate in joint exercises with other CERT teams, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) and other Emergency Agencies to operate as they would during an actual disaster. Baxter County CERT works in full cooperation with and support of all response agencies in the community.  These local, county and State agencies are aware of the skills that Baxter County CERT members have learned during training and the role that they will have during a major disaster. Agency personnel participate in CERT classes as instructors and coaches and in activities with Baxter County CERT members to ensure a completely cooperative effort.

Understanding that it may be necessary for Baxter County CERT to operate independently following a disaster, we practice this independence by taking responsibility for our own training. Baxter County CERT Teams design activities and exercises for themselves and with other teams. Some members can be rescuers, some victims, and some evaluators. After the training event, community teams discuss the exercise and self-evaluate performances to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of all concerned - and we enjoy getting to know one another in a social atmosphere.

Q: Can someone under age 18 participate?

A:
We are presently concentrating on the 18-and-over certifications for Baxter County CERT.  We do have plans for the future to include under-18 volunteers in specific activities.  All volunteers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or have written permission to participate.  Restrictions apply to activities in which a minor may participate.

Q: What if I have concerns about my age or physical ability?

A:
There are many jobs within Baxter County CERT for someone who wants to be involved and help. Following a disaster, CERT members are needed for documentation, comforting others, logistics, etc. Non-disaster related team activities may include keeping databases, contributing to our website, writing a newsletter, planning activities, helping with special events and organizing exercises and activities.

During CERT classroom training, if one has a concern about doing a skill like lifting, just let the instructor know. You can learn from watching. We would like everyone who wants to go through the training to have an opportunity to participate and learn the skills. CERT educates participants about local hazards and trains them in skills that are useful during disaster and life's everyday emergencies.

Q: What about liability?

A:
The text of the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 can be viewed at the following web site: http://rpc.senate.gov/releases/1997/VOLUNTEE.LO.htm
Also there is information about State Liability Laws located on the Citizen Corps website:  
http://www.citizencorps.gov/councils/liability.shtm.
During training, Baxter County CERT briefs its CERT members about their responsibilities as a CERT member and volunteer. By providing training in how to respond safely and effectively in an emergency Baxter County CERT address liability and prepares CERT members, especially given the alternative of having spontaneous volunteers "show up to help."
Baxter County CERT uses the training material that was developed by the Los Angeles City Fire Department.  This material was adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1993. The CERT manual contains basic and straightforward material that has been accepted by those using it as the standard for training.
It is important to remember that the best sources of help in emergencies are professional responders. However, in situations when they are not immediately available, people will want to act and help. We have seen this time and again in our history. Baxter County CERT training teaches skills that people can use to safely help while waiting for responders. The alternate is to do nothing and that is not in our nature.  Anyone in Baxter County who experience the ice storm of January 2009 knows how our communities come together in a time of need.  Baxter County CERT helps to solve for that need.

Q: Who are the Baxter County CERT Program Leaders?

A:
Baxter County CERT has an Advisory Team which serves in the capacity of Program Leadership.  The Advisory Team includes:

Baxter County Judge Joe Bodenhamer - Governmental Sponsor and Volunteer
Tina Cole - Program Coordinator and Volunteer (baxtercountycert@live.com)
Steven Brown - Prog. Asst Coord. and Volunteer (stevebaxtercountycert@yahoo.com)
Jim Sierzchula - Senior Advisor and Volunteer (Director, Baxter County OEM)
Tina Cole - Safety Advisor and Volunteer (Safety Coordinator, Baxter County OEM)
Richard Taffner - Advisor and Volunteer (Arkansas Department of Health)
Gerald Cantrell - Advisor and Volunteer (Baxter Regional Medical Center)
John Marks - Advisor and Volunteer (Asst Dir, Baxter County OEM/911-Dispatch)

Members of the Advisory Team are in the process of certifying as CERT Program Trainers.