James Watkins: Behind the Community Emergency Response Team Program in Cape Girardeau

realwatkinsJames Watkins started volunteering with the City of Cape Girardeau Fire Department with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in 2000 and began his paid position in October 2009.

Watkins states that serving as a volunteer for the Fire Department is what led him to being involved with the CERT program.

“Since serving on a volunteer Fire Department, being safe has always been a priority,” Watkins said. “I completed my first CERT class in 2000 and followed up with a CERT class to become an instructor. I completed several FEMA and SEMA classes earning professional and advanced professional development series credits.”

The CERT program was designed to educate people about how to become prepared for a disaster that may impact their community or homes. This is done by instructing them on basic disaster response skills using nine educational units. Home and workplace preparedness, fire suppression, medical operations, light search and rescue operations, disaster psychology and team organization, how CERT fits into terrorism, and disaster simulation are some of the units that are included in the program.

The next free 20 hour CERT class begins Feb. 27 at the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center Training Room B. The class occurs every Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. until March 27. Watkins claims that this class would be beneficial for every citizen to take part in.

“At some point in their life, every citizen will experience a disaster or emergency”, Watkins said. “After training, every citizen should have the confidence to act in a way to prevent the event from getting worse or even the ability to make it better.”

Watkins claims that the best part about his job is knowing that there are people in the community who are taking action to prepare, their families, neighbors, co-workers, and themselves for disaster. Watkins also says that the biggest challenge that he faces is seeing people who deny that they will ever have to deal with disaster. He states that citizens shouldn’t always rely on others to help.

“All disasters start locally and end locally,” Watkins said. “Outside help may show up sometime, but they will leave and local effort will continue to deal with the situation. A community cannot be prepared if individual citizens are not prepared.”

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