Harrison Mills CERT members Peter Bryant (left)

Harrison Mills residents training for disaster

Emergency Response Team preparing for scenarios where they are the first responders in Harrison Mills community

Harrison Mills residents are hoping their efforts at co-ordinating for an emergency response team will never be needed. But if an emergency happens, they plan to be prepared.

The Harrison Mills Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) formed in 2013 and has been steadily gaining new members and a more organized team over the last year. Recently, the group was awarded a grant-in-aid for $3,025 from the Fraser Valley Regional Board. According to CERT team leader Cindy Austin, they will decide at their next meeting exactly how to spend the grant-in-aid funding, with possibilities including First Aid training, two-way radios and updating the CERT kits.

CERT began as a project within the Harrison Mills Regional Association (HMRA). The nonprofit group realized there was a need for emergency preparedness within Harrison Mills given their unique geography.

“If we have a major disaster this way, we feel in our area, we will be isolated,” explains Al Roberts, CERT member and HMRA president. “If the trees block the highway or the bridge is washed out, we’re going to be alone.”

While there are neighbouring emergency service personnel who will come to Harrison Mills, the problem arises if the road is blocked, if the bridge is washed out or if, for some other reason, emergency services cannot make it to the small enclave quickly.

That’s where CERT kicks in. The roughly 20 members (some still need to pass their training), spend time each month going through different emergency scenarios, discussing emergency preparedness and assessing how to best help and protect their community.

“We are the first responders, before the first responders,” says Roberts.

According to Chris Wilson, manager of electoral area emergency services for the Fraser Valley, CERT has the ability to conduct an assessment of a situation for first responders coming on scene. He explains that CERT is a great advantage for Harrison Mills, as they are “champions of preparedness” within the community.

Wilson has spent time counseling the organization on procedures, taking them through training scenarios and providing support however he is able. Wilson’s long-term vision for the Harrison Mills CERT, a pilot project in the Fraser Valley, is to empower the people there, to give them the training and leadership to continue to build CERT. Wilson sees the potential for organizations like this to form elsewhere within the Fraser Valley as well.

CERT’s next monthly meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Tapadera clubhouse in Harrison Mills. If you are interested in learning more about the group or how you can get involved, come to the meeting. Tapadera is a gated community so call Al Roberts at 604-796-2372 if you would like to attend.