PRINCETON — First responders are quickly dispatched when crashes, fires, searches for missing persons and other emergencies happen, but sometimes they need extra help; when volunteers are needed, a local organization is ready to send them.
More volunteers were required on March 3 when a 2-year-old boy was reported missing at Cabin Branch Road. The Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, West Virginia State Police, rescue squads and volunteer fire departments were quick to join in the search. Neighbors turned out to help, and more assistance was on the way when the boy was found safe almost two hours later.
Cabin Branch Road, which is located between Lake Shawnee and Lashmeet, is a rural area with steep, forested hills, so a lot of people were needed for a through search. This extra help was provided by the Mercer County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Sheriff Tommy Bailey said that CERT provides “the extra volunteers, somebody that we can call in situations when a kid or anybody goes missing. They’re available to anybody in the county, any department. It’s already paid off. It’s just invaluable to have people who can come out immediately.”
A CERT volunteer, Daniel Roland, and Senior Trooper K.A. Filer of the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment, found the child. Roland estimated later that the toddler had climbed 400 to 500 yards up the steep embankment above his house. Other CERT volunteers were searching the forest around the neighborhood.
Mercer County’s CERT currently has between 10 to 15 members, according to Nick Fields, who is also a member of the Athens Volunteer Fire Department along with Lt. Tony Mahon, another CERT volunteer.
“We wanted to do something for the community about two years ago, and we looked and looked and we stumbled on CERT,” Fields recalled. “It’s through Homeland Security and FEMA.”
Both Homeland Security and FEMA recommend that communities set up CERT teams so more volunteers will be ready when emergencies strike. Mercer County WV CERT’s first action occurred when its members helped at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Mercer Springs Road.
“We showed up at the scene and we helped the EMS that were there and helped with traffic control,” Fields said.
The Cabin Branch Road search was the second incident where CERT provided assistance. Besides helping with emergencies and searches, CERT also helps educate the public about emergency preparedness. Fields said that CERT is looking for more people interested in joining. While CERT members are often part of fire departments and rescue squads, other people can join, too. Volunteers need to be 18 years old or older.
CERT Mercer WV has an office at the Gardner Center, the former forestry science laboratory in Gardner. Fields said the volunteers also have a Facebook page, CERT Mercer WV, where interested people can contact the organization and apply.
CERT also has literature and DVDs that help residents learn more about being prepared for emergencies.
“You can never be too prepared,” Fields said. “I live in Athens and when it rains heavily, we can get flooding. People need to know what they have to stock up on: batteries, water, canned goods.”
By being prepared, residents can do more to take care of themselves rather than waiting for somebody qualified to come and rescue them, Fields stated.
“We’re here to help,” he said. “CERT is a program that educates the community. That way, not just us, but the community can help each other out in hard times.”
CERT Mercer WV can be contacted by calling 304-887-2866 and by emailing certmercerwv@gmail. com.
Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com