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Fema trains for terrorism { February 1 2004 }

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Responders get quick course in emergency response actions
John Andrew Prime / Louisiana Gannett News
Posted on February 1, 2004

Not much of American life remains untouched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and that includes emergencies.

That was made clear to area citizen volunteer emergency responders, who took part this week in free training the Caddo Parish sheriff's office offered to people who want to be trained to help their neighbors in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist event.

"Has anyone here ever been in a vehicle crash?" Cpl. Jim Dunn, on the staff of the sheriff's Regional Training Academy, asked the class of nearly 30 people at Caddo Correctional Center on Saturday morning.

Several of the volunteers, eager to be identified as members of a Citizen Emergency Response Team, or CERT, raised their hands.

"Your mindset changes after you're been in an accident, doesn't it?" Dunn asked. "One minute you're headed to the store or whatever, and then it all changes. 'What did I do?' you ask yourself. There can be injuries, even death involved. Unless we're functioning at top speed, we're no help to ourselves, or anyone else."

Saturday was the third day of training for volunteers in the FEMA-designed program, which held night classes Thursday and Friday, and wrapped up Saturday.

Attendees - male and female, young and old, but leaning toward the retiree demographic - received course material, audio-visual instruction and, on Saturday, lunch. They received tips on how to handle emergencies, including emergency medical operations, light search and rescue, fire safety, how to recognize signs of potential terrorism and disaster psychology. The latter included instructions on how to avoid burning out from the stress of an emergency and organizing volunteer teams.

"This has really been quite helpful to us," said Thomas Davis, a retired truck driver and community volunteer who is a member of the Shreveport Gardens Elderly Apartments in the 200 block of East Stoner Avenue. In connection with Neighborhood Watch and other activities, he's pursued emergency instruction through courses such as this and participation in the citizen academies offered by local fire and police.

"This helps me be better prepared for emergencies in the community," said Charles Nelson, a retired state corrections officer who is a friend and fellow volunteer with Davis in Neighborhood Watch. He, too, is a volunteer with numerous agencies and groups. "That could be a tornado, power outages, fires, all the way into terrorism."

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