The state’s wildfires, the upcoming tornado season and events like the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City serve as grim reminders that disasters can occur at a moment’s notice.

A group of Tahlequah area residents have been training this week to respond and assist in relief efforts, in case such a disaster occurs here.

The Cherokee County Local Emergency Planning Committee and the Cherokee County Health Department sponsored a Community Emergency Response Team training this week. Twelve people, including emergency service workers, completed the class.

“We’re learning everything from first aid to search and rescue and fire suppression,” said Tahlequah-Cherokee County Emergency Management Director Gary Dotson. “We’ll be able to use this to train our [EM] volunteers.”

The group also took part in a hands-on exercise Wednesday afternoon at the Fire Training Center, training for rescue-and-recovery operations.

Class members were divided into teams. and each group had a leader and safety officer.

“The team leader has a hard job,” said Dean Holt, a Bartlesville emergency medical technician who taught the course. “They have to watch everything and be aware of what everyone on the team is doing.”

Holt said the leader is responsible for the safety of other team members.

Judy Soos, state coordinator for CERT training, said the teams are entry-level responders at disasters. Soos, who has several years’ experience as a paramedic and firefighter, suggested the class train and work as a team so Tahlequah would have a CERT to activate in case of emergency.

Pam Moore, one of the class organizers, said the group has discussed training together as a team.

After the rescue training exercise, the group also practiced with fire extinguishers. No fires were set for the class, however, due to the extreme windy conditions and the burn ban.

“This training could prove invaluable in the event of an occurrence in the community or one of the team’s workplaces,” Dotson said. “Emergency service personnel are not always ready to respond.”

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