Routt County 4-H graduates 1st youth disaster preparedness class
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Twelve local students filed into the historic Routt County Courthouse on Wednesday as the first graduates of the inaugural Colorado Youth Preparedness Initiative program, organized by the county’s 4-H office.
The program is part of a nationwide effort to train children age 12 to 17 in disaster preparedness by completing the Community Emergency Response Team certification, known as CERT.
Over the course of three days during the students’ winter break, followed by monthly meetings until March, students from Routt and Moffat counties received more than 30 hours of training and earned CPR certification. Lessons covered topics like search and rescue, emergency animal evacuation and disaster medical operations.
Before they received their graduation certificates, David “Mo” Demorat, Routt County’s emergency operations director, asked the cohort to name the top three priorities during a disaster he considers as the county’s emergency operations director.
The question elicited some mumbling and sideways glances from the students, who learned about his job back in December.
“It was the first lesson, on the first day,” said Tami Eggers, a Routt County 4-H agent with Colorado State University who helped organize the training.
As Demorat reminded the group, he first alerts the public about the disaster. Next, he helps to evacuate and shelter people. Finally, he ensures that the county’s emergency plan is current so he can implement it.
“Can anyone tell me the website that tells people about emergencies in the area?” he asked.
The students answered in chorus, “RouttCountyAlerts.com.”
“That’s all that really matters,” he said, inviting them up one at a time to receive their certificates.
Among the graduates was Josie Hermacinski, an eighth grader at Emerald Mountain School in Steamboat Springs. While she doesn’t have any particular aspirations to become a first responder, she took the training for altruistic reasons.
“I thought it would be cool to help the community if there’s ever a disaster,” she said.
It shocked her to learn how quickly a tornado, earthquake or blizzard could block essential services to a particular town.
“Stores would be completely sold out in three days if food couldn’t come in,” she said.
As part of the disaster preparedness program, Hermacinski and her fellow cohorts made an emergency supply kit filled with food and other essentials to store in the event of such a disaster. They each made kits for six additional households, reaching a total of 84 homes across Routt and Moffat counties.
Among the necessities, Hermacinski made sure to include some chocolate in her kit to help her weather whatever storm might come.
Eggers buttressed the preparedness program with a few trainings that addressed local concerns. For example, the students underwent a wildfire simulation in which they used the county’s emergency evacuation trailer to practice transporting livestock away from imagined flames.
That experience was especially pertinent to 12-year-old Jason Heid, who lives on his family’s farm in Clark. He remembers a wildfire that swept through the area several years ago that required him to help load some of their 40 horses into trailers in case the blaze reached their property.
Now that he is officially trained in animal evacuation, Heid feels more confident about responding to future wildfires that may endanger his or other farms.
Eggers explained the young graduates now have the certification to help the public in a disaster situation.
“If something were to happen, we could actually call upon these kids to help,” she said.
Routt County was one among 12 counties across Colorado that conducted the free training, sponsored by the National Youth Preparedness Initiative called MyPI. The program started as the Mississippi Youth Preparedness Initiative, which explains the acronym, and has since expanded to a partnership of 27 states.
Demorat said Routt County is offering a similar training for adults in May. It includes about 21 hours of instruction spread over five days, after which participates will be certified members of the Community Emergency Response Team.
Those interested should call Demorat at 970-870-5551, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Students can get snacks, meals and dry goods at grab-and-go pantry