Lisa Rouse said she signed up for Community Emergency Response Team training to learn how to put out small kitchen fires and be aware of fire hazards in her home.
The single mother, along with most of her 17 CERT classmates, did not know the dangers of improperly storing a fire extinguisher before the seven-week class.
“Pretty much our entire class was storing fire extinguishers improperly,” Rouse said. “We should have had them in a visible area. I had mine under my cabinet. Now, I have it at the back door of my home.”
Rouse was part of the second class of graduates for the CERT training. Once trained, CERT members are qualified to assist emergency responders in emergency medical care, firefighting, logistical support and many other tasks.
Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James told attendees at the Thursday ceremony that 50 percent of hazardous materials in Georgia are produced in Richmond County. He told the graduates their training would be vital in the event of severe weather, natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
“We could see where government became overwhelmed and in those types of cases we need citizens to be prepared to help one another,” James said. “Your local first responders, fire, police and emergency management service workers would become overwhelmed quickly. The normal response time could be extended to 10 minutes just because of very bad weather. If I have 100 patients I couldn’t guarantee 100 ambulances.”
Rouse said the highlight of the CERT training for her was attending Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay’s class on terrorism.
“He brought a lot of real-life scenarios to our attention such as what if the dam were to break and how quickly University Hospital would flood,” she said. “I never thought about anything like that happening here.”
Keith Isaacs, a maintenance supervisor with East Central Regional Hospital, said he became a CERT volunteer to help patients at the hospital during an emergency.
“We have many people who are limited physically and mentally they are also confined to certain areas,” he said.
City Administrator Fred Russell expressed his gratitude to the graduates during the ceremony.
“Thank you for everybody who took part in this class,” he said. He then laughed as he gave out his home address. “If anything were to happen, I would be happy if anyone of you came by to save me.”