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submitted by Gretchen Mayer

On June 7, 2006, a terrible summer storm ripped through my town of Mansfield. During the night my husband and I heard crashing, ripping and tearing sounds. When I stepped out of my house at first dawn, the sight was horrendous. We had three 100-year-old trees ripped up by the roots. The rest of the town was in no better shape.

I wandered around all alone, since it was about 5 a.m., and noticed downed power lines, large branches laying on car hoods and even a small building tipped at a 45 degree angle. As I took photos of the damage, I now realize I’d unknowingly placed myself in a lot of danger.

There were no rescue crews around; the storm had been pretty wide-spread. By sheer luck, no one was hurt by the downed power lines or the unsafe structures.

Now that I’ve had CERT instruction and looking back on that day, I realize there was so much more I could have done. If nothing else, having someone around with specialized training would have been reassuring to some of the other people in town.

My husband, Doug, and I have just finished the CERT course and have joined one of the county’s CERT teams. When another storm whips through the area, and it will, we’ll be better prepared. In South Dakota a summer storm, blizzard and even unpredicted flood can happen at any time. While I’m not physically the strongest member of our team, I know that when something big happens and we need to help, there will be an important job as a neighbor or on a county team for me to perform.

Whether you join a team or not, the course will prepare you to take care of yourself, your family and your neighbors during such crisis. There’s no cost to take the course, it’s a commitment of one evening per week for six weeks and is an informal, fun, learning experience.

Below is a true story submitted by Becky Burdick, a CERT Team Member, August 21, 2006

Here's my little story for all those who don't think they will need CERT because we don't have disasters.

Last night the storm broke two tree branches in my back yard. One was sitting on my garage roof and the other was hanging above it being braced by another tree on the other side of my back yard. About 6-8 feet from my garage is my house with the gas meter right off the back of the house.

I had to hire guys this afternoon to cut down the two branches because the one was still hanging over the power line attached to my house and a slight wind would have brought that down on my power line up to my house.

So they were cutting the tree down and I was sitting in my living room watching Oprah, when I heard a branch fall. It shook my house. I thought it was the main trunk of the tree and thought I would go out and see the whole tree down.

I stepped out my door and heard a large hissing sound and the guy in the boom truck yelling to the other guy to grab his pliers and turn that off. So, I ran to my trunk, grabbed my gas wrench from my CERT bag, and ran that back to him and told him what it was. 

The branch fell and broke the two gas meters I had on my house completely off the pipes, it was coming out full bore. He still had a heck of a time getting that turned off, in fact he kept saying he couldn't get it and they told me to go call 911. But, he got it off just as the dispatchers answered. 

The guy, who turned off the valve, said he would never have gotten that to turn off, if he didn't have that wrench to do it. And he was getting pretty sick standing over that. He felt like he was ready to pass out. They still had their chain saws running. A few more minutes and a few of us would have lost our houses today, or even worse, some lives could have been lost.

Had I not had the CERT training, I would not have had the proper tool or the training to know what to do. And, I always thought I would only use that wrench as a hammer.

Thought you might like to use this to convince people we don't only need to know this stuff for disasters.

Glad to be here tonight.