By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Keizer’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) graduated 27 new members last week, the largest class to ever complete the training at one time.

“We also opened up the enrollment to five people from Donald and Hubbard, those folks are going to go back to their communities and jumpstart CERT teams there,” said Greg Biben, Keizer CERT coordinator.

CERT training is a program designed to prepare area residents to help themselves, their families and neighbors, in the event of a disaster. The training covers basic skills that are important to know in a disaster when emergency services are not available.

Training and gear for the CERT participants this time around was paid for entirely by a Department of Homeland Security grant. The recent addition of a new trailer, paid for by community sponsors, and the donation of two vacant homes slated for demolition in the Keizer Station area  added new elements to the run-of-the-mill training program participants had become accustomed to, Biben said.

“The houses were pretty beat up and ended up being perfect for simulating the circumstances and injuries that might befall members of the population in an earthquake,” he said. “After training in clean classrooms and other clean environments, it was great for them to get such a true-to-life view of what they might encounter.”

The CERT trailer was used to house volunteers simulating injuries and provide a warm environment as they were ushered from the homes.

Another new wrinkle was the addition of an evacuation vehicle. Paul Pfinster of Emergency Volunteers Assisting Keizer (EVAK) has been corralling organizations with large transport vehicles to allow EVAK to commandeer them during emergency situations. Tapping into that resource, CERT volunteers rescued the injured drill participants and “evacuated” them to the Keizer Fire District Station on Chemawa Road Northeast.

“At the end of the drill all the volunteers who were our victims were cold, wet, full of dust and the ability to take them away from that scene was a nice experience,” Biben said.

CERT graduates were: Cynthia Auchenbach, Gordon Baldwin, Rob Brattain, Gary Breunle, Skyler Crenshaw, Trish Crenshaw, Amy Doerfler, Brianna Evans, Diane Ingebrigtson, Brent Jacobsen, Stan Jeffries, Jill Kenagy, Ron Knudsen, Kathy Lazott, Randy McAtee, Beth Melendy, Melinda Olinger, Jan Olsen, Jennifer Oswald, Maria Prescott, Rose Rowe, Darren Schmidt, Ed Street, Ray Thomas, Thelma Thurman, Angelica Torres, Diane Youd and Fabricio Tobias.