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Atascadero hosts emergency training in February 

CERT training

Community emergency response team members gather together after the end of a session.

Every year Atascadero City Fire Department hosts a community emergency response team — also called CERT — training. The training is open to anyone who wants to learn how to protect themselves, help their families and assist their neighbors in the next unknown disaster. The upcoming training will take place on Wednesday in February — Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25 — from 6 to 9:15 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pavilion on the Lake.

CERTr-2013-markThe CERT trainings have been taking place in the North County — Atascadero, Paso Robles, Templeton, San Miguel and Heritage Ranch — for the last four years. The training originally came to the area after the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake devastated the area — including two deaths in a collapsed building in Paso Robles.

CERT Program Director Jim Fritsche said that Paso Robles emergency services received 200 calls that were not responded to for a couple of hours because personnel was dispatched to the fallen buildings in the downtown. He said that many of those calls could have been avoided had the residents been CERT trained to both be prepared for an emergency, as well as to help themselves and their neighbors. It was after the earthquake that he was brought in to run the program for Paso Robles. The CERT program was started by Los Angeles City in the 1980s, so Paso Robles then looked at bringing it to the city.

After seeing how successful it was in Paso Robles, it was decided to take the program to the entire North County. To do that, Fritsche works with five fire departments: Atascadero, Paso Robles, Templeton, San Miguel and CalFIRE. He said he basically has five bosses, though he added that the five departments work together to bring the trainings to the community,

CERT_2834“[The training is] to give [residents] the positive sense that they can do something [in the event of a disaster],” Fritsche said.

Every September, Paso Robles hosts the training and every February Atascadero hosts it. The smaller fire departments schedule their trainings as their schedules allow. The trainings — often taught by retired fire chiefs who volunteer their time — can also be given to private groups.

The February training is not yet fall, but Fritsche said that the trainings fill up every year. He said the classes are capped at 40, adding that most people tend to sign up the week before the class begins.

To register, go to www.prepareslo.org, call 805-610-5565 or stop by Atascadero City Fire Station 1 on the corner of Traffic Way and Lewis Avenue.

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