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Beginning on Friday, March 15, the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency is offering members of the community free training on how to respond in an emergency.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training classes are designed to empower residents in Coffee County to take care of themselves and each other in the event of some kind of disaster, according to EMA Director Allen Lendley.

“It was started after 9/11,” Lendley said of the training program. “It’s basically just to get citizens prepared to take care of themselves and their neighbors in the event something major happens – some type of disaster.”

Some of the elements taught in the class include basic first aid training, how to properly use a fire extinguisher and some “light search and rescue,” Lendley said.

This type of training is necessary for citizen safety and community vigilance, according to Lendley. He used the recent Lee County, Alabama, tornadoes that killed dozens of people as an example. During that disaster, first responders weren’t immediately able to check on every resident within a few hours – it took days for search and rescue crews to make their way out to locate missing people and identify those injured in the storms.

Having this kind of training, Lendley said, would help citizens become and remain self-sufficient should they find themselves impacted by something like a flood or a tornado.

“They say be self-sufficient for up to three days,” Lendley said. “Have enough food, water, medicine and things like that for three days in a disaster.”

Additionally, Lendley said, he’s hoping offering this training open to the public will inspire some more Coffee Countians to get involved and volunteer with the EMA or Homeland Security.

If the area residents are open to taking the training, Lendley said, they might also be interested in assisting with volunteer operations with EMA during disasters or severe weather threats.

“What we’re trying to do is build our volunteer base up so that we can better serve the entire county,” he said. “The more people we have trained in basic disaster response, the better we can serve the community.”

In total, participants will spend about 24 hours learning how to mobilize and take care of one another in the event of some kind of disaster, be it natural or manmade, and it comes at no cost to those who wish to sign up.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Lendley said there were already 14 people signed up to take the class and only four more spots left to fill.

Classes begin at 6 p.m. Friday in the EMA/Homeland Security building located next to the Coffee County Justice Center. The address for the building is 300 Hillsboro Blvd. According to EMA, the classes will take place today, March 22 and 29 and April 5, 19 and 20.

Those looking to take the training or interested in getting more information on the classes should contact the CCEMA office via email at info@coffeetnema.com.

More information about the CERT program in general can be found at www.ready.gov/community-emergency-response-team.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.