Group aims to train residents in emergency response

By Ian Neligh
Posted 6/14/10

A fire starts in Clear Creek County and quickly grows out of control as the windy, dry, hot weather and the beetle kill give it fuel and deadly momentum. It spreads in flaming fingers over the …

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Group aims to train residents in emergency response


A fire starts in Clear Creek County and quickly grows out of control as the windy, dry, hot weather and the beetle kill give it fuel and deadly momentum.

It spreads in flaming fingers over the mountains and along Interstate 70 before turning into a moving wall of flame. As with the recent fires in California, residents are evacuated and houses burn.

This scenario, however horrific, could happen here, and the Clear Creek County Community Emergency Response Team — known as CERT — wants residents to know what to do just in case.

CERT is hosting a free four-day, 32-hour training session on July 10, 17, 24 and 31 at Fire Station 1 in Dumont. The goal is to teach residents to be prepared for an emergency and to be ready to help themselves, their family or their community if the need should arise.

Jane Thomas, emergency planner for the county’s Office of Emergency Management and coordinator of Clear Creek County’s CERT, said the county has the potential for large-scale evacuations.

“One of the key pieces, as far as I’m personally concerned, is to be prepared, and it is not (the) job of the government to really come and help people. We’d love to, but it is not always possible,” Thomas said.

That’s why it’s the goal of the CERT to have locals be ready to handle any situation — from tornadoes to terrorists, from traffic accidents to fires.

The concept behind CERT came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1994. FEMA based the team’s creation on a similar model in the Los Angeles Fire Department.

CERT’s goal is to equip each resident in Clear Creek County with basic preparedness and response skills needed to survive a major disaster. It believes if a disastrous event such as a fire overwhelms or delays the community’s professional emergency response, residents can better be protected by applying the skills they’ve learned.

“I think one of the big things that you hear on these wildland fire evacuations is people are saying, ‘Oh, they gave me so long to get out, and I didn’t know what to take, so I packed the car with pictures …,’” Thomas said. “Well, is that really what’s going to help you should you be in a shelter situation?”

Thomas said what would be more helpful is a change of clothes, toiletries and important papers.

She asked if families know how to find or get in contact with the members of your family in an emergency.

Clear Creek County’s CERT was formed after a local emergency response class was held in 2005.

Thomas said she was interested in becoming a member of the CERT, in part, because of the need to be prepared to deal with emergencies in a rural community.

She added that the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 also motivated her to become involved.

“I think a huge piece was Katrina really got me fired up because people complained, ‘Where was FEMA, where was FEMA?’ “ Thomas said. “… So it was that piece of, ‘Gee, you know I am responsible for myself and what do I need to do?’ I have grandchildren that come up here to visit, and what do I need to have in place to be able to handle this situation?”

The local CERT meets every other week for training. Thomas said the team currently has 26 members from both Clear Creek and Gilpin counties.

Thomas said the idea behind having a group of local volunteers prepared to deal with emergencies isn’t so from the situations in early farming and mining communities.

“I think that it’s taking us back to that sense of community — get to know your neighbors and what they’re about a little bit …,” Thomas said. “… By having these people pre-trained and ready to deploy, we’re ready to go. We’re ready to step in to those (emergency) roles.”

Thomas said communities that are better prepared to deal with a disaster tend to be more resilient and come back to normal faster.

“You have people that are able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. … It creates a much more resilient community,” Thomas said.

 For more information, call Jane Thomas at 720-352-1740 or e-mail her at

Contact Ian Neligh at, and check for updates and breaking news.



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