Community Emergency Response Team

Federal emergency training at COCC preps volunteers for disaster

On the heels of National Preparedness Month, COCC and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) are teaming up to stage a three-day Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training program, a first in the region for the federally sponsored training, with some 50 enrollees set to attend the Oct. 5-7 sessions at the Bend campus’s Science Center.

The CERT program started as a grassroots initiative in 1993 to better prepare communities in the event of natural and manmade disasters, and now has programs in all 50 states and utilizes curriculum managed by the Department of Homeland Security. Comprised of volunteers, CERT teams help augment the efforts of first responders and emergency workers.

Participants of the CERT training at COCC will learn basic emergency response skills, such as light search and rescue, how to suppress a fire and how to assist with medical teams. The three-day training culminates with a disaster scenario, complete with college staff, students and local Boy Scouts playing the part of injured victims. An established CERT program in Polk County is providing the instructors for the training.

“An educated and prepared community is a resilient community,” expressed Rachel Knox, program manager in COCC’s Continuing Education department, who, together with Sgt. Nathan Garibay, DCSO’s emergency services manager, sought out the grant. Knox explained that the greater objective is to grow the ranks of CERT-trained citizens and to devise a framework and the resources for conducting drills and deploying those teams in times of need.

Building that framework will be the mission of Jodie Barram, whose one-year coordinator position is being funded by the same grant. “It’s an asset to any community in the nation,” said Barram of the emergency preparedness skills. “Whether we’re facing a Cascadia event or winter megastorms,” she added, CERT teams will be readied to respond to “events that have a catastrophic value.”

In just the past few weeks, CERT teams in places like Hawaii and North Carolina have made a difference in their communities as hurricane season has impacted those locales.

For more information, contact Rachel Knox, at 541-383-7271 or