BISMARCK, N.D. --The Roughrider Snowmobile Community Emergency Response Team, formed in 2011, recently continued its first aid training.
CERT programs use citizen volunteers during emergencies to support emergency officials and law enforcement. It is one of the National Citizen Corps programs which lie under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.
Burleigh County Emergency Manager Mary Senger said the recent training was a refresher course for the team. The 27- member team consists of members from the Roughrider Snowmobile Association, said Tom Schroeder, a Burleigh County sheriff’s deputy. Riders are from Bismarck and Mandan. Schroeder also is a member of CERT.
Schroeder said the snowmobile club had assisted in searches before the team was formed but, “wanted more training and structure” when they responded. He said members asked for more defined procedures to responding to emergencies.
Each CERT member has taken 40 hours of training, but Schroeder said there is at least one annual training event to improve their skill.
He said the local program is organized through the sheriff’s department and have assisted in recent blizzards. “We’ve been lined up to do medical runs with either Sanford or St. Alexius Medical Center,” Schroeder said. “We’ve had people on standby to bring doctors into the hospitals if they can’t drive in. We have been ready to drive a paramedic into an emergency call until the plows can clear an area for the ambulance. “ They will assist residents in Burleigh or Morton counties.
“We used them in the heavy blizzard in April 2013 to check vehicles for people along Highway 83 and Interstate 94. We’ve had them go out a couple of times,” Senger said.“They can help emergency officials fill a gap because they can often reach areas they can’t.”
During the blizzard, CERT volunteers questioned stranded motorists whether they had serious medical conditions so emergency officials could attend to them first, Schroeder said.
CERT members helped tag cars with tape so emergency responders knew which vehicles were empty, he added.
Senger said CERT team members are not first responders and do not replace first responders. However, they can travel where it is more difficult for first responders to reach. “They can provide basic first aid and do basic search and rescue,” she said.
Senger said before the CERT members start on an assignment, they will meet with sheriff officials or the lead agency for instructions. Schroeder said the snowmobilers can easily travel in 100-mile intervals for searches and to transport people if needed.
The snowmobilers will travel in teams that carry special backpacks. These contain collapsible shovels, emergency blanket, a flashlight, body warmers, hand warmers, water-proof matches, flagging tape and basic medical supplies. They also might carry equipment like an avalanche probe for people who might missing under the snow and a rope ratchet. Schroeder said eight or nine of the team volunteers have trained for avalanche response in Wyoming. They could be sent elsewhere.
Communication is done by team members’ cellphones. Schroeder would like the team to be equipped with two-way radios and a GPS system to help them keep track of CERT members’ location. He expects future training will focus on more detailed search and rescue and communications.
“We never put them in harm’s way,” Senger said of the CERT members. “They don’t self deploy. They have to be contacted to respond by officials.”