Anyone can be a CERT volunteer, ready to spring into action the moment an emergency threatens their community, so long as they complete their training.
A small group of volunteers-in-training gathered at the Ardmore Executive Airport early on Thursday for their Community Emergency Response Team training,  which started at 8 a.m., wrapping up at roughly 8 p.m. Today, they’ll put what they’ve learned to the test with a live demonstration. Jim Ingersoll with 2Serve and Kory Meidell with Gideon Rescue Company staged the training.
“We’ll do hands-on training today, carrying patients around, moving them around, and extricating them from a crushed wall,” Meidell said. “Stuff like that. Tomorrow, they’ll have the mock scenario to respond to.”  
The “patients” on day one are training dummies, but they’ll move on to live actors on day two. CERT volunteers are not professionals, but the training is designed to be basic, uniform and applicable to any disaster scenario.
Meidell said people frequently make assumptions about who is qualified to be a CERT volunteer, often assuming they’re not young, strong or qualified enough.
“A lot of people just say, ‘Oh, I could never do something like that,’” Meidell said. “The idea is that, with some training, the typical person can help, can have something to offer.”
The training outlines basic response strategies that emphasize communication and planning and can be adapted to different situations, whether it’s a natural disaster or some other event.
“That’s one of the nice things about CERT training, it can be tailored to a certain area,” Meidell said.
CERT training dictates that the first person on the scene of an emergency is typically considered the incident commander, the person who starts organizing the response and feeding information to other volunteers. From there, it’s up to other volunteers to feed information back to the incident commander, ideally keeping everyone informed at each step. Meidell said that can be challenging.
“Where would you put your command post?,” Meidell asked the group. “If you don’t have an emergency operation center, because you’re not a government agency, you’re probably going to set up something hasty. Maybe a tent or an awning, something like that. It could be a trailer, it could be a pickup truck bed and you’re just working off of the tailgate. A command post is a command post once everybody knows it’s a command post.”
CERT responders need to know how to assess the state of a structure, and whether or not it’s safe to enter to try and reach a trapped or injured person.
“You can keep and maintain verbal contact, you can tell them what is being done to help them,” Meidell said. “If you’re inside a building and no one is answering you, that is a whole lot more alarming.”
Meidall said he’s been in this line of work since 2011.
“I’ve just moved here from Utah in January and I met Jim in person in Panama City during Hurricane Michael,” Meidell said. “We worked together there, and part of their training is the CERT program.”
Meidell said while Ardmore has its own CERT organization, this is the first time this particular event has been held.