By Rick Emert, Fort Carson MountaineerFebruary 6, 2009
FORT CARSON, Colo. Aca,!" A group of Fort Carson Family Housing mayors went through training Jan. 27-28 that could help them remain calm in an emergency and ultimately help save lives of Fort Carson housing residents.
The Community Emergency Response Team training for housing mayors goes hand-in-hand with the Ready Army concept of Army communities being prepared for emergencies, said Joey Bautista, Fort Carson installation volunteer coordinator and mayoral program manager.
According to its Web site http://www.ready.gov/america/getakit/army.html, the key to Ready Army is being prepared for an emergency by following three steps: get a kit, make a plan and be informed.
The emergency kit should include enough supplies to last at least three days, since a large scale disaster could prevent emergency responders from providing help to everyone right away. The kit should include: nonperishable food, water for drinking and hygiene, a first-aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, a manual can opener, sanitation supplies, important documents and the family emergency plan. The plan should include steps to take if an emergency happens. All Family members should regularly practice the plan.
Being informed involves paying attention to world and local events that could affect one's family or community. The CERT training - conducted by the Fort Carson Fire Department - took Ready Army a step further by arming mayors with the skills to conduct basic disaster medical operations; prevent fires; and react to tornados, blizzards and even terrorist threats or attacks.
The housing mayors will receive CERT kits with the equipment needed to put their training to use in an emergency situation, Bautista said.
The mayors also will become a vital part of the chain of communication between Fort Carson leaders and the Family members who live on post, serving as a "second echelon to notify the residents if something happens at Fort Carson," Bautista said.
Planning for the mayors' CERT training began in October, and the garrison commander, Col. Eugene Smith, called for the training to be completed by the end of January, Bautista said.
It marked the first time since Bautista began heading the mayoral program in 2002 that such training has taken place for mayors, he said.
History need not go back far to show the need for getting housing mayors involved Aca,!" both in communication and disaster response. In April, the community closely watched a more than 9,000-acre wildfire that was advancing toward some of
Fort Carson's housing areas. Firefighters got control of the blaze Aca,!" with a little help from the weather - and no housing areas were evacuated. But, if there is a next time, the housing communities should be prepared.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time nothing is going to happen at all, and we'll be fine," said Pam Brummett, mayor of Fort Carson's Iroquois Village. "But, if something does happen, we need somebody in the area that can take control and calm people down and get people where they need to be."
Now armed with the skills to tackle an emergency situation, Brummett said she feels ready to take charge if she has to.
"(Our Family) is kind of those people that are the doers," Brummett said. "When you're the doer, it's nice to have the training so you know what you are doing - instead of waiting for somebody else to do it."
Bautista said he expects to conduct annual CERT training, since mayoral elections are held each year, and plans to include refresher training at the mayors' monthly meetings to keep their skills current.
On Feb. 3, just days after their training, Jennifer Isbill, Kiowa Village mayor, and Aimee Brooks, Kiowa Village deputy mayor, were out delivering handbills when Brooks smelled what she thought was natural gas. Isbell called emergency services while Brooks evacuated nearby residents. It was a gas leak and it was repaired by Balfour Beatty Communities, which runs Fort Carson Family Housing.
"The CERT training that we received really did work, and made us more aware of our surroundings. We knew exactly what to do, and the steps that needed to be taken in order to ensure everyone's safety," Isbill said. "Without that training, we probably would have just walked on by thinking it was nothing."