The Hope Mills Community Emergency Response Team is looking to expand its membership into an untapped area of candidates: teenagers.
CERT is a volunteer organization that works under the oversight of the Cumberland County Emergency Management department.
Melode Dickerson, manager of Hope Mills CERT, said the organization’s work falls into several different categories.
Its primary role is in disaster relief following major events like the recent hurricanes.
“When the hurricane came, we first went out and helped the Red Cross,’’ she said. “We had people working in shelters, closing down shelters, doing damage assessments. We had over 300 hours with the Red Cross.’’
When there are no disasters, CERT members are out in the community at a variety of events, including helping with parades, traffic control and other charitable activities. “We try to keep everybody busy so they don’t lose interest,’’ she said.
“We go out and help in the community.’’ There are about 30 adults currently volunteering
with the Hope Mills CERT team, Dickerson said.
It was before and after the hurricane that Dickerson began hearing questions about whether or not teenagers could be CERT volunteers.
That was when she decided to explore starting a separate group of teenage volunteers to work in conjunction with the adult CERT members.
The plan initially is to have the teenagers operate apart from the adult CERT volunteers, with an eventual goal of possibly working out a change in the bylaws to add the younger members to the adult group.
Dickerson tentatively plans to limit the age range of the teenagers allowed to volunteer to sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school.
The CERT training includes instruction in how to stop bleeding in emergency situations. Dickerson sees that as valuable to students who could find themselves in a life-saving situation at school someday.
“If they don’t learn anything else, they’ll be able to save somebody if they need to,’’ Dickerson said.
Official recruiting for the teen CERT program will begin in January. Those who are interested can contact the Hope Mills CERT by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hope Mills Community Emergency Response Team page on Facebook also has a link to a Teen CERT brochure from the Federal Emergency Management Association.
Photo: Melode Dickerson, manager of Hope Mills CERT