Niles CERT members ready to respond
Niles Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) members Ron and Pat Neukirch help block traffic during last summer's Illinois Police Torch Run through Niles. | Contributed photo
Updated: March 11, 2013 2:20AM
NILES — Whether it’s helping to direct traffic when lights go out in town or assisting in a natural disaster, members of the Niles Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) team are ready to lend a hand.
CERT volunteers are members of the community trained in basic search and rescue, first aid, firefighting and disaster preparedness.
“The idea is in times of disaster their homes are prepared and they can help their neighbors,” said Niles Police Sgt. Ronald Brandt, field supervisor for the CERT program.
Brandt said that when first responders like police and firefighters are busy, members of CERT provide the extra manpower that is needed.
“It’s easier for us to go out and do it than to have to pull them off the street,” said Ron Neukirch, who has been a dedicated CERT volunteer since 2007. His wife joined the team in 2008 as well.
“We’re not taking their jobs, we’re just assisting them,” said Neukirch of the first responders.
Brandt said CERT members can assist in a wide range of disasters from a terrorist incident to a natural disaster like a tornado, flood issues, etc. The training includes disaster fire suppression, basic disaster medical operations and light search and rescue.
There are about 25 members of the Niles CERT program and participants take part in eight weeks of training for a total of 32 hours.
CERT members help in a variety of ways, such as directing traffic during storms when streetlights go out, administering basic first aid, handing out safety information at events, providing information about how to safely use a car seat, and much more.
“I’m very active in it,” said Neukirch. “I really like it.”
Neukirch said he enjoys getting to meet new people in the village and helping the police officers out. He said that CERT members direct traffic during the Special Olympics Torch Run and also help the police officers raise money for the fundraiser.
“It’s rewarding,” Neukirch said of his experience.
Brandt explained that members of the police department’s volunteer program are required to go through CERT training as well. Members of the volunteer program assist the Police Department in various ways, from helping at the front desk of the Police Station to working at crime prevention booths during community events.
The CERT program is run through the state’s Emergency Management Association and the volunteers are trained the same way across the country. If there is an emergency in another state, local CERT members could be called out to assist.
The next session for CERT training will be on the third Tuesday in January. As of late December, 17 people had signed up and leaders always encourage more citizens to join the class.
The goal of the nationwide program is to double the number of participants in the next two years, with more than 400,000 people taking part in more than 20 hours of training.