Plastic sheets and wooden sticks were the only items a crowd of people at the Las Vegas Emergency Operations Center were able to use during real-life training session for a mass emergency.
They were participating in a free class with the the Southern Nevada Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) that’s aimed at teaching preparedness and response skills for residents to use during emergencies. Saturday’s class was taught in Spanish. The class is held regularly in English throughout the year.
“In English, this program is all over the country, but there’s just not that many in Spanish,” said Zuzzette Bricker, who taught the class June 29. “I want everyone to have the same opportunity. Teaching Spanish communities in their native tongue is so important. Most of us will revert back to our native language when we try and do something because that’s what’s logical in our brains.”
The two-day course taught attendees how to respond before first responders arrive, Bricker said. Attendees learned organization methods and basic first aid: how to open airways, stop bleeding, and conduct search and rescue and damage assessment.
“We teach them the basics of saving someone from home,” said Bryan Land, an English CERT instructor. “We talk about personal preparedness in your home or your workplace — how to prepare your family for a disaster.”
“We need to know what to do,” said Silvia Romero of Green Valley, adding, “the Hispanic community is growing and all of us are part of Las Vegas. Many things can happen — just like the shooting two years ago. For our community, it’s important that everyone knows what to do in cases like this.”
The nationwide program was started in the 1980s by the Los Angeles Fire Department, Land said. It’s offered both as a two-day course and once a week for six weeks.
“The concept was that in a large disaster, regular citizens are going to have to be the first responders because the professional responders will probably be overwhelmed initially,” Land said. “It’s important to get people trained — the families, their neighbors, workplaces and schools. They need to be able to do some basic first aid search and rescue putting out fires so they can be the help until help arrives.”