A fire breaks out in an apartment building; A broken water pipe floods several floors; A resident collapses with a heart attack on the tennis court; An intruder roams the premises with criminal intent; A huge alligator settles in for a nap on the seventh tee of the community’s golf course. In every case, fire rescue and police personnel are summoned, and they rush to the scene. Until professional first responders arrive however, the situation is in the hands of the community’s on-premises staff and security providers. How does a concierge, doorman, maintenance worker, security guard or property manager learn to deal with such emergencies? In south Florida, training is available from many sources.
Local emergency-management agencies offer free training for community staff and residents through their Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) programs. Some property-management companies have training programs for their clients’ staff. Other sources include non-profit organizations and for-profit companies that sell training classes, printed materials and videos.
Statewide, Florida has 125 CERT programs. For a complete list, visit www.citizencorps.fema.gov/cc/CertIndex.do?submitByState.
“We’ve trained about 750 people since 1998 from within the city of Boca Raton and the surrounding area. We don’t turn anybody away,” says Norm Engel, division chief, special operations for Boca Raton Fire Rescue Service and Boca Raton’s CERT coordinator and lead instructor. Engel’s CERT classes meet three hours a week for nine weeks. The curriculum covers:
Fire science- which includes fire prevention and how to put out a fire. Participants go outside, practice using a fire extinguisher, and learn to handle a heavy 1.75-inch hose line on hydrant pressure. This session also covers hazardous materials. “Many people store ammonia and bleach next to each other,” Engel says. “If they come in contact, the bleach breaks down to hydrochloric acid, which then reacts with the ammonia to form a toxic vapor called chloramine.”