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 Members of the Rochester Community Emergency Response Team work together during a disaster simulation session.

Members of the Rochester Community Emergency Response Team work together during a disaster simulation session.

Photo provided by John Shepp

Volunteers sought for emergency preparedness team

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 25, 2020


ROCHESTER — The community can learn how to help family, friends and neighbors in the event of an emergency with a little guidance from the Rochester Fire Department next month.

Community Emergency Response Team training, which is free and open to the public, will be held 6-10 p.m. March 30-April 3 at the Rochester Fire Department, 277 E. Second St.

The five-day CERT training teaches volunteers basic disaster response skills — such as fire suppression, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, and team organization. At the end of the week, the training will give people a chance to put their knowledge to use with a disaster simulation session. Participants must attend all classes to receive certification.

“It’s been a few years since we’ve run a class, and we want to try to get some new, fresh (people) interested and keep things moving forward,” said Rochester Fire Marshal John Shepp, who coordinates the CERT program.

Since the CERT program’s inception in 2012, Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik said, the Fire Department has trained around 150 CERT members, who have assisted with many major community events over the past few years — including the Art and Apples Festival; the Rochester Hometown Christmas Parade; Lagniappe; the Big, Bright Light Show; and many others. CERT members have also assisted in various search-and-rescue operations in the area, and they have been activated a couple of times for severe weather.

Over the years, the group has lost some of its members — some have moved away, others have left the team due to work or family commitments, and a few have gone on to become paid-on-call firefighters in Rochester or other communities.

The team currently has 35 active members, and the department is hoping to gain some new volunteers.

Participants must be 18 or older, but they don’t have to live in Rochester to become a CERT member.

After the training, those who decide to become a CERT team member can get certified in CPR and first aid, and they have the opportunity to participate in a number of other monthly training workshops throughout the year. Shepp said all training and equipment are supplied to CERT team members at no cost.

“Beyond the basic training class, there is no time requirement as to how much time you have to give,” Shepp said. “We have people that only come to one or two training sessions a year and make one or two events, but we know that if we have that big disaster in Rochester, we can call these people and they will be in to help.”

Cieslik said the CERT team is a very diverse group.

“We have everyone from doctors and nurses to senior citizens,” he explained. “The way we operate our CERT team is we find out what the people are comfortable doing … everything from answering questions to setting up an information booth or passing things out from an educational standpoint. You don’t have to be a highly trained individual, just a motivated person who wants to be engaged and to be part of the community,” he said.

Those interested can attend the CERT training without any obligation to join the team, Shepp said.

“I would encourage somebody to sign up merely for their own personal preparedness — to know how to help themselves and help their families and their neighbors in the event of a disaster, a long power outage or an ice storm,” he said.

For more information or to register for the CERT training class, call (248) 651-4470 or email