News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, March 21, 2012
A group graduated from the Community Emergency Response Team program this week. (WRDW-TV)
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- One local group received diplomas -- not from high school or college, but from the Community Emergency Response Team program.
"I'm ready. I'm ready, I am so ready if something happened," said CERT graduated Antoinette Hart.
She's ready to respond and assist with anything.
"If they need me, then I'll be right there to help out on the scene," said another CERT graduate, Joshua Ibarra.
Both are ready to help right here in our area.
Help that may have been needed if a train derailment in downtown Augusta on Thursday morning had become dangerous or deadly.
It's called the CERT program.
"Our CERT program is a Community Emergency Response Team," explained Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James. "And with this is where we train citizens on how they can assist us during an emergency.
The program is open to everyone. And it's free.
"Often, if we have a large-scale emergency, the local government's resources will get overwhelmed quickly," said Chief James. "And sometimes it can be a delay in response to get to a citizen or emergency because we're overwhelmed."
In those cases, CERT graduates can step in to help.
"Often the first person who will be able to assist you will be your neighbor in your neighborhood," James said.
Now, you or your neighbor can be trained for all types of emergencies, including large-scale fires, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and major collisions.
And the graduates are grateful for the knowledge.
"You are the first one on the scene if something terrible happens," said CERT graduate Angela Rice.
"I know people in my neighborhood, so I know that with this program I can help them out," Ibarra said.
"I just wanted to be able to help people, not just in my neighborhood, but in Richmond County and all over," Hart said.
For those interested in getting involved, the Augusta Emergency Management Agency will hold classes throughout the year. The next one starts on May 7. Call (706) 821-1155 to sign up.