WINDER - It's apparently the hottest (free) ticket in town.
The autumn class of Barrow County's Community Emergency Response Team, with 20 participants, set an attendance record for the three-year-old program, officials said.
"We're very excited about the attendance in this fall class," Barrow County CERT president Bob Richardson said.
Commonly known as CERT, the group of trained citizen volunteers acts as the first line of defense at the outset of disaster.
The inaugural CERT program in Barrow concluded in June 2006 with six graduates. The goal is to offer - eventually - three courses a year to better educate and prepare residents. Leaders of the CERT program are continuously looking for more participants.
CERT graduates learn light search and rescue, triage, basic medical treatment and communication exercises - skills that could come in handy in the event of a real catastrophe.
But more than anything, Richardson said, most students want to be better prepared to help their own families in the case of an emergency.
"That's what the class is all about," Richardson said, "helping your family, then your neighbors and then your community, if needed."
CERT leaders have trained 54 Barrow residents since the program's inception. They currently have 30 active volunteer members.
To join, residents 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.
Enrollment for the next CERT class - spring 2010 - is under way.
For information on Barrow County CERT team enrollment, call 770-868-7270 or e-mail email@example.com. Or check them out online at www.barrowcert.org.