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AmeriCorps members receive training

Greenville Fire Department Sgt. Micky Norman (right) teaches AmeriCorps members Jerry Stephens (left) and James Daniels (middle) how to open an airway as part of an emergency preparednes class. (Advocate Staff/Patty Vaughan)

AmeriCorps members have been a useful resource in Butler County for nearly 15 years, but now, the members will become even more useful if a natural disaster occurs.

Twenty AmeriCorps members in Butler County are being trained in Community Emergency Response Team or CERT.

“Several years ago, when Gov. (Bob) Riley was very much involved with Katrina, he felt like we needed a group of individuals to be trained in CERT to be able to help individuals in our state and to be able to travel and help other individuals in surrounding counties and neighboring states,” Program Director Carol McArthur said. “We felt like at least 5 percent of each AmeriCorps program in the state should be trained in CERT.”

McArthur felt for this community, having all members trained was necessary, because all the members are in schools on a daily basis helping with reading, math and assisting administrators with other needs. She said this will provide an opportunity for AmeriCorps members to be a tremendous resource to the schools if an emergency occurs.

The 20-hour course will allows the members to become trained in things like hazards that will affect homes, workplaces and neighborhoods, working as a team to apply basic fire suppression strategies, apply techniques for opening airways, control excessive bleeding and treating shock and much more.

First-year member Jerry Stephens said he has always been involved with volunteer organizations and feels very strongly about being involved in anything that can help the community.

“I was taught growing up that we’re all in this together and if you can do something to help, it’s important to do that,” Stephens said. “That’s what attracts me to AmeriCorps  —  the idea of volunteering and hopefully making a difference.”

Another first-year member, Candace Sturgeon, said she just loves to save lives.

“We’re getting a lot of hands on stuff,” Sturgeon said. “We did the fire extinguisher, now we’re doing actual medical things like treating someone who is bleeding. We’ve had CPR classes but we’re going in depth.  I actually love kids, and this may sound funny, but I want to teach now.”

McArthur said she believes Butler County has been very fortunate.

“I think we had Ivan many years ago that really devastated parts of this community so we experienced firsthand what can happen,” she said. “We need more people to be prepared. It helps to have trained volunteers.”

The team will have its final training and graduation on Jan. 20.