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Community heroes sought

WINDER - With their spring classes under way, officials with the Barrow County Emergency Response Team have focused their efforts on filling future rosters.

Better known as CERT, the group of trained citizen volunteers act as the first line of defense at the outset of catastrophe. The bigger the CERT, the better, officials say.

"The team helps Barrow County's first responders in the event of a disaster," said Lt. Scott Dakin, spokesman for the Barrow County Fire Department.

To join, Dakin said, citizens must take initial classes once a week at the Winder Fire Department for a total of eight weeks. Once aboard the CERT, members meet the third Tuesday of each month and host training classes twice a year. Joining is free.

The CERT Program educates residents about disaster preparedness for hazards that may affect local communities. Learned skills include fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.

The burgeoning team began its spring training class last month, adding to a roster CERT President Bob Richardson called a growing and better trained group that could be vital for the real pros.

But he's not stopping with what he has.

"We need to look at recruiting new members and preparing them as well," Richardson said.

The inaugural CERT program in Barrow concluded in June 2006 with six graduates. The goal of the program is to offer - eventually - three courses a year to better educate and prepare residents.

For information regarding the Barrow County CERT team, call 770-307-2987 or e-mail barrow_cert@windstream.net.