South county gets volunteer emergency response team
Lorena Figueroa Madrigal
Laurea Elena Ramírez
In times of disaster or emergency, south Yuma County can count on a team of volunteers to give first aid, evacuate residents from danger zones and provide other assistance.
Seventeen area residents recently completed training, forming the south county's first Community Emergency Response Team, charged with providing help during or in the aftermath of events such as earthquakes, fires and large storms.
The team of volunteers will serve San Luis, Ariz., and surrounding areas, but the county's Office of Emergency Management will make an effort to recruit more people for another team to serve Somerton, said Rogelio Torres, who taught the San Luis team's class.
Yuma already has two such teams in place, he said, and the Office of Emergency Management hopes eventually to have them throughout the county.
“We want to focus on the south county this year,” he said, “and then we want to work little by little toward the east county.”
The police, fire department and the sheriff's office will always be the first responders in the event of an emergency, Torres said, but the CERT teams will be on standby to serve in a complementary role.
To become members of the San Luis team, the volunteers completed 20 hours of training covering such topics as first aid, evacuating victims from disaster zones and conducting search and rescue operations.
While as volunteers CERT members receive no pay, the roles they play in ensuring the welfare of their neighborhoods and communities “is a very large commitment,” said Liliana Arroyo, one of the new team members for San Luis.
Arroyo figures the team will most likely be called on to respond in the aftermath of earthquakes or massive rain or windstorms that cause flooding or wide-scale power outages. Nonetheless, she said, the team is ready for whatever other events occur.
“The better prepared we are,” added another team member, Laura Elena Ramirez, “the more lives we are going to help save, the more people we will be able to help.”
For Arroyo, Ramirez and another CERT member, Alma Valles, the value of the CERT is not just that it stands ready to lend a hand in a disaster, but that its members can pass along the message about emergency preparedness in their respective neighborhoods.
“The power of all this is that it teaches you how to respond in your own household to protect your own family,” said Valles.
The concept of CERT was developed and put into practice in by the Los Angeles Fire Department in the mid-1980s. Since then, CERT teams have formed across the nation through partnerships of local governments and the residents they serve.
Yuma County residents interested in being part of CERT teams can call Torres in the Emergency Management Office, at 317-4664, or Don Vickers, the CERT program coordinator, 304-0785.