Larry Miller

CERT instructor Larry Miller teaches a comprehensive, 20-hour course on emergency preparedness and response that equips those who finish it to help within their communities when disasters hit. He teaches an eight-hour course especially for families. / Contributed photo

Visit Catoosa.com/911 and you’ll find a link that says “Praise & Preparedness.” It’s a Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security program designed to help places of worship equip themselves as safe havens for their communities in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.

Does your church, for instance, have an emergency response team should a tornado hit? Do you know what areas of the building would be best suited for various purposes, how to treat injuries until professional help arrives, how to shut off gas or electricity, how to communicate effectively with each other and responders? No one likes to think about it, but what would you do in the case of an active shooter in the community or on your premises or a fire in your building?

These are all things the Praise & Preparedness program walks leaders through by way of online resources that include a detailed, 37-page, editable template for assessing and cataloging your premises to finding funding to become a possible emergency center.

In addition to the Praise & Preparedness resources, a free, 20-hour, in-person training course called CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) is available through Catoosa County Emergency Management.

CERT instructor Larry Miller says the 2011 tornado in Ringgold is a good example of why it’s so important for local people to be trained to respond to emergencies. “When the tornado hit, we had 10 trained members at the time who lived in the tornado zone. All they had to do to help was walk out their front doors. They knew how to secure areas and help people who were wounded or emotionally traumatized, how to properly shut off utilities where that was important. They knew what information to gather so when emergency crews arrived they could provide them with that and help them.”

During the CERT course, Miller says, “People are trained to stabilize, triage and report injuries for transport, assess property damage, care for emotional distress, fight small fires, safely turn off utilities in homes, search buildings for victims when it’s safe to do so, organize neighborhood resources to increase the survivability of the whole community, work with emergency responders and the Red Cross to deliver ongoing assistance, assist emergency managers with communications and offer clerical help and delivery of goods and services.”

Miller says the CERT course can be tailored to meet the needs of different groups and areas. “We don’t have to worry a whole lot in our area about earthquakes. It makes more sense to focus on the issues we’re likely to face. For a church, we can concentrate on the things they’re likely to face or that are important to them.”

Miller, who has worked as a pastor, a firefighter and an EMT in other states, has also developed an eight-hour course on family preparedness. “We discuss low-cost ways to be ready for everything from power and water outages to natural disasters. It’s possible to be prepared without spending a lot of money.”

Faith leaders can start by visiting praise.ga.gov. Individuals can find resources at ready.ga.gov.

But few things match hands-on training. Leaders and individuals interested in either CERT training or family classes can contact Larry Miller at 423-313-5053 or catoosacert@att.net.

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