Disaster preparedness and psychology with Charlotte County CERT

Writer: Rachel Murphy
Published: Updated:
People gathering for CERT Basic Training (CREDIT: WINK News)

Charlotte County Emergency Management began its three-day Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, a course on helping the public prepare for disasters.

The workshop, which held its first class Monday, begins with eerie timing, considering a mass shooting that unfolded over the weekend in Tampa.

The course briefly went over terrorist-like events, though instructors emphasized that members of CERT are not involved in those types of situations.

According to John Hanzel, a member of the CERT executive board, “CERT is a national program under FEMA that aims to educate and provide training for the community.”

On Monday, the Emergency Management team led lectures and guided exercises on how to face different types of hazards in a community.

At least 20 Charlotte County residents participated in practicing radio transmissions, developing coping strategies and what to do before EMS services arrive.

“CERT is an all-hazards preparedness program. It is free to the community. It shows them what vulnerabilities or hazards they see in their community and how to better prepare themselves, their home and their neighbors,” said Brad Geelen, an emergency management specialist who led the course.

Disaster Psychology

Disaster psychology with Greg Markley (CREDIT: WINK News)

Monday’s course focused on the topic of disaster psychology when responding to natural disasters, something that all Charlotte County residents who lived there in the past year know all too well.

Greg Markley, a disaster preparedness expert, went over identifying psychological symptoms such as mood swings and withdrawal from others as signs of someone weathering trauma. Physical symptoms include loss of appetite, headaches or insomnia. 

The Emergency Management team said stress can be reduced with sleep, regular exercise and connecting with others. They encourage people to be communicative about their feelings and their needs, including CERT members.

WINK News asked how Hurricane Ian has changed CERT. Geelen said, “It’s probably put a little more presence on the need for it. There’s been a lot of communities that have looked at starting up programs or reupholstering their programs.”

Resources for Charlotte County

A segment on CERT from the Charlotte County Disaster Guide pamphlet passed out during the course (CREDIT: Charlotte County Emergency Management)

The three-day basic training course is hosted on a quarterly basis, free to the public. The next course is expected to take place in Englewood.

The Emergency Management team also suggested the following resources to stay informed and be prepared:

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