By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University’s Campus-Community Emergency Response Team and the Maroon Volunteer Center will host a Personal Readiness and Emergency Preparation program from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Bost Extension Center.
The program is free and open to the public, and free lunch is provided, but space is limited to 200 people. Ryan Akers, C-CERT director, said about 70 spaces remain as of Wednesday morning.
“We are going to accept walk-up registrants the day of the program as well,” Akers said. “We do not want to turn anyone away from this valuable awareness program, so we will continue to accept (registrants) until we reach maximum capacity in Bost. If we do reach that point, there are already plans to offer this program on an annual basis, with the next program in ... 2013.”
Meggan Franks, MVC program coordinator, said the goal of PREP is to teach the MSU, Starkville and Oktibbeha County community how to be prepared before, during and after disasters. Topics up for discussion include disaster preparation kits, disaster communication plans, first aid, local preparation and recovery resources, evacuation planning and care for children, senior citizens and animals during disasters, she said. Organizations teaming with C-CERT and MVC for PREP include OCH Regional Medical Center, the MSU Extension Service, Legacy Hospice, Red Cross, MSU Police, OSERVS, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and several other city, county and state agencies.
“From looking at the comments of the individuals that have registered already, their objective of taking the training is (to learn) how to keep themselves and their (families) safe,” Franks said. “This is the first time the Maroon Volunteer Center has assisted with a disaster preparedness training program. We appreciate our partnership with C-CERT.”
Akers said MSU departments have facilitated programs akin to PREP’s components before, but PREP is unique in that it brings in members of the community as part of C-CERT’s outreach mission. He said another goal of PREP is to raise threat awareness proactively, and it is designed to focus on more than just common threats.
“We’ve got a great keynote speaker, Dr. Mike Brown, who will be discussing what to do and what not to do during extreme weather conditions,” Akers said. “We’re also anticipating a great discussion on the Expert Panel. These individuals will be discussing their roles in disasters with the participants, and we’ve designed it around audience engagement, so participants will have the opportunity to ask questions to the expert panel as well. One aspect that always seems to surprise participants of these types of programs is how simple the development of preparedness plans can be and, to some extent, how cost-efficient the process is.”
The C-CERT program was launched in November 2011, and Akers said its team of 26 has already been trained in fire safety, light search and rescue, disaster psychology and basic medical, triage development and evacuation protocols, among other subjects. The team meets monthly and has already built several partnerships, he said, and while no severe weather situations or other events have required its action so far, he believes it is only a matter of time before C-CERT is called into action.
“Coming off the heels of three consecutive years of near misses for our immediate community, we formed C-CERT with the commitment to be able to assist with skill sets and to further promote awareness to our community,” Akers said. “In that respect, we have been successful, and we continue to progress and improve so that we will be ready and our community members will be ready.”