In a packed meeting area leaving only standing room, Greenbrier residents came together Thursday to move forward with the beginning stages of organizing a Community Emergency Response Team.
Residents set an official date for the group’s first meeting and learned the history and meaning of a Community Emergency Response Team’s (CERT) responsibilities.
Greenbrier’s CERT will be the first city-based team in the state.
Greenbrier Fire Chief Cody Fulmer said the incident at the Greenbrier Gardens Apartments following the flooding disaster that left Faulkner County and other potions of Arkansas in a state of emergency showed how badly the city needed more direction and organization during an emergency situation.
Fulmer said individuals affected by the flooding needed better structure from helpful hands while the fire department handled the rising waters from a professional standpoint.
Local firefighters thought the elderly Greenbrier Gardens residents were in good hands after they were rescued from their flooded homes, Fulmer said. However, he later learned the community was not well educated on how to tackle and respond during the emergency, which helped further inspire the need to form a city-based CERT.
"When we as a fire department were pulling those people out of their homes from the floods we told them there was going to be hot coffee and a warm blanket at the event center where they could get out of this mess," Fulmer said during Thursday’s meeting. "It was a terrible situation. It turned out they got a cold bleacher seat and they had no one in there to take care of them."
The city’s CERT will feature active, trained members as well as on-call members who can show up to support and lend a helping hand under the direction of those who have undergone emergency training.
CERT training is handled by the Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management at no cost to participants.
The CERT program educates residents about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.
Annette Gartman, a nurse educator at the University of Central Arkansas, is Greenbrier’s current team leader.
Gartman told attendees Thursday their participation would never lead them into the arms of danger.
"We are going to operate as an arm to the fire department," she said. "Basically having enough knowledge and skills to operate as an emergency responder on a citizens-only level, not a professional responder. Our goal is to just respond until professionals can get there or to respond in a nonthreatening capacity as an assistant to the victims and the professional first responders."
Fulmer said he already sees the CERT being a great benefit to the city.
"We only have 26 firefighters to cover a city with a 66-mile radius," he said. "The odds are stacked against us if something bad were to happen. However, with this training, we’re all going to be able to handle our emergencies."
The FCOEM offers CERT training throughout the year to county residents. Greenbrier’s CERT will be trained through the county OEM and will later be trained in-house by Greebrier firefighters.
Fulmer said he plans to have refresher courses throughout the year for the city’s CERT members.
"I don’t want us to be just your average, run-of-the-mill group," he said. "I want us to be something that others want to be like."
Prospective Greenbrier CERT members agreed on an official first meeting time and location.
CERT members will meet as an official group from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 3 at city hall, which is located at 11 Wilson Farm Rd in Greenbrier.
Fulmer said he hopes the group will be able to form together to respond as far out as Guy and Twin Groves. For now, the team will cover the Greenbrier School District, which runs hand-in-hand with the Greenbrier Fire District.