DENVER — Tornado season is especially bad this year in the Denver area, with numerous ‘touchdowns’ and funnel cloud sightings recorded. As local residents sat in a CERT lecture on tornado safety last week, the instructor showed numbers of tornadoes each year in Colorado counties noting that ‘this year is much worse.’ A local mall was hit by a tornado the week before the first class, while a funnel cloud menaced a baseball game at downtown Coors field days before and severe hail turned the ground white and rivers and streams reached flood conditions in the second week of class. The third class is coming up, who knows what will happen before then?
CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training provides community members with the skills and some of the equipment needed to respond to local emergencies and other events that occur in daily life. The Regional Transportation District (RTD) has begun providing CERT training at their district headquarters and elsewhere to frequent riders of their extensive bus and train service, creating teams with general emergency knowledge as well as specialized bus and train preparedness. As they study for the hands-on ‘final exam’ in a few days, this team has been living through real-life weather emergencies in the Denver area.
Participants in the RTD CERT class responded to calls posted on buses and trains, in newsletters and online. Some are RTD employees, others are frequent riders and they come from all walks of life – some young, some older, both men and women. Trainers include experienced volunteers, fire and police department first responders who may work with them in the future, and others who can provide first-hand knowledge of helping out in disasters.
Not every disaster is another Hurricane Katrina, but, as the instructors emphasized, every disaster and accident victim is an individual. Class members are learning not only to respond to the conditions of an emergency, but to help the people involved who could be neighbors, friends or fellow passengers.
The third and final week is coming up, and future CERT team members will get a taste of working together in an actual emergency situation which will be ‘very realistic’. Having the confidence of hands-on experience is an important part of the training. They will also receive instruction in transit-related situations, allowing them to be uniquely prepared to respond if they are on the scene in a transit event. In the first week they experienced a search-and-rescue drill in a simulated tornado emergency, and in the second week everyone received hands-on training in small fire suppression from a member of the Aurora Fire Department.
Next week, the CERT class members will graduate with practical experience, training, and Department of Homeland Security-provided equipment including green vest and helmet to identify them as trained CERT team members. If they receive the call or are on scene when help is needed, they will be prepared to responsibly provide assistance. Next time you ride a bus or train, you may be sitting next to someone who was trained to save your life or get you to safety if something happens. You can join in – future classes are being scheduled by the RTD, check www.rtd-denver.com for more information.