Jemison Elementary faculty does CERT program

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

JEMISON — There was an explosion and an ensuing fire at Jemison Elementary School Tuesday night. As emergency responders rushed around the building to see that the gas was turned off, they heard screams from victims.

As the trained responders entered the building, water was spraying everywhere and the sound of the fire alarm was deafening.

“I’ve got to find my sister!” screamed a woman wandering the hallways with a bloody shirt.

Slowly, victims began to emerge from the school as the reality of the situation unfolded. Injuries were numerous and severe. The victims were taken to triage for treatment and transport.

Fortunately, what happened at Jemison Elementary Tuesday was just a disaster drill exercise, but its purpose was to prepare the teachers for the worst.

“I panic in emergency situations, so I thought this would help me deal with it better,” third grade teacher Angela Ray said.

“My nature is to help people,” added kindergarten teacher Beverly Wyatt. “This way I’ll know what I’m supposed to do if this should ever actually happen.”

Twenty-seven members of the school’s faculty participated in the training to become a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). After completing their 20 hours of training Tuesday night, they made a total of 30 trained team members on staff at the school.

“When we did [the training] at the intermediate school, we realized our school is not prepared,” JES Principal Louise Pitts said. “We’ve got teachers from all areas of the school representing all grade levels here, so every wing will be covered.”

Pitts pointed out that after a tornado struck Enterprise High School in 2007, no responders could get into the school for 45 minutes. She said having trained personnel on staff would prove invaluable in an emergency.

David Hicks, one of two CERT training officers in the county, commended Pitts and the school for participating.

“Usually, these courses are taught on grant money, but Mrs. Pitts took money out of her own budget and paid for this class instead of waiting for grant money,” Hicks said.

There are currently three organized CERT teams in Chilton County, in addition to more than 100 trained individuals.