A federally funded emergency preparedness agency has scheduled six series of training sessions in the new year for residents of Erie and Niagara counties who want to assist police and fire agencies in a disaster.
Sessions are to be held in Amherst, Grand Island, Cambria, North Tonawanda, Hartland and at Niagara University.
Nancy Brennan Blundell, project coordinator for Border Community SERVICE, based at Niagara University, said the additional training sessions were made possible by her organization's frugality.
A $373,000 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service was to expire at the end of 2006, but she said, "We had some residual funds left over, so they gave us a three-month extension."
Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, training is meant to educate citizens about how to respond to hazardous situations ranging from small fires and accidents to major disasters.
The grant to Blundell's program has enabled it to train more than 500 volunteers in Erie and Niagara counties.
"I would advise any citizen to take part in that," Niagara Falls Fire Chief William D. MacKay said. "It's been proven over and over again that a prepared citizen is a part of the solution, not part of the problem."
MacKay said he plans to meet with the 54 CERT volunteers already trained in Niagara Falls to discuss how they can best be utilized. "We want to work with them so when we do use them, they're properly instructed and we make sure we're all on the same sheet of music," he said.
Blundell said, "The most important thing is people have much better skills for responding to emergencies."
The free training classes are not restricted to residents of the communities where they are being held. Each course consists of seven three-hour classes and a final simulated disaster drill on a Saturday morning.
Topics of the classes include disaster preparedness, fire safety, light search and rescue, emergency medical operations, disaster psychology and terrorism.
Classes will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, beginning Jan. 11, in Sweeney Hose Fire Company, 495 Zimmerman St., North Tonawanda; Cambria Fire Company, 4631 Cambria-Wilson Road; and Grand Island Fire Company, 2275 Baseline Road.
Hartland Fire Company, 8945 Ridge Road, will host classes from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning Jan. 17.
In Amherst, the course will be taught in the Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Road. Its program will include two classes per week, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, beginning Jan. 22.
Niagara University's offering, in Room 127 of Dunleavy Hall, will be even more compressed. The classes will be offered on Saturdays, starting Jan. 20, with two sessions each day, running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a lunch break in between.
The final disaster simulations will be Feb. 17 for students in the Niagara University course; Feb. 24 for the Amherst students; and March 3 for all others.
Blundell said a Niagara Falls course is being organized and will be announced.
Participants may enroll for any of the sites by phoning 205-0070 or on the Internet at www.niagara.edu/bordercommunityservice.