The Rowlett Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) had the chance to put its training to the test when the city was hit by a tornado last week.
Volunteers in the program go through hours of training to prepare for a disaster, emergency medical technique, first aid, fire suppression and search and rescue.
Then came the real deal. Erik Ernst, Rowlett CERT director and Scott Hart, deputy director, oversaw their team members when they responded the night of Dec. 26.
The team began clearing the roadway immediately for the larger vehicles like fire engines and ambulances. They started turning off gas valves knocked open from flying debris. CERT also played a hand in evacuating houses in the damaged area and ensuring victims were out safe and alive.
“All the units responded almost immediately,” Hart said. “We were able to guide in Texas Task Force 2 and Rowlett Fire-Rescue so they could concentrate on the worst areas so we could continue checking residents.”
Hart called it the perfect scenario when CERT comes in handy.
“The city uses us for all kinds of events,” Hart said. “Anytime there is a public gathering, they call us out to set up first-aid tents, help traffic control and crowd management. We do community service, training, community outreach, also we work with the fire department to do smoke alarm checks.”
CERT helps along side first responders in a disaster event to alleviate the issue of not having enough hands on deck. Those ages 14 to 21 are involved in a division of the program called Explorers.
“I look at them just like CERT members; they deployed right alongside us and were doing the same actions we were,” Ernst said. “They did remarkable, they’re the future of the city, and they’re our future leaders.”
Hart called being in CERT life-changing.
“Helping them in a time of need, there’s no value to that,” he said. “It’s rewarding to know you’re there helping someone in their darkest hours.”
Ernst said that although Rowlett CERT officially ended its efforts Friday that some volunteers were still volunteering in other groups.
“The outpouring of all the residents towards those affected is just astounding to me,” Ernst said. “We’ve always had a great sense of community and this just brought us together and showed us how important we are to each other.
Ernst said there are over 100 people who have registered for the next CERT class in February.