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Camp Kiwanilong is home base for emergency-focused training

Trainees Ken Only and Stephanie Stahmer look through a simulated town with downed power lines and injured people to make decisions about how to help. (D.B. Lewis)
By D.B. Lewis, Thursday, November 29, 2018

Take care of yourself and your family first. Next, do the greatest amount of good for your neighbors while using the fewest resources.

Such are the standing orders for responding to a local disaster, according to last weekend’s training by CERT, the Community Emergency Response Team, a federally funded Citizen Corps program.

Residents from throughout Clatsop County gained the community survival training at Camp Kiwanilong in Warrenton.

CERT, a FEMA program, is offered throughout the United States without charge to participants.

Trainers Kimber Townsend, Wendy Hackman, and brothers David and Dell Weston are themselves volunteer CERT leaders in Polk and Yamhill counties. The four have held sessions throughout the state about once a month over the last year, adding onto their record of more than 70 sessions in their time working as a training team.

By design, CERT’s main purpose is to prepare citizens to survive natural and manmade disasters. Attenders are taught how to prepare for the worst and are schooled in sound response procedures.

Training includes learning how to deal with the “three killers” (bleeding, breathing and shock) and how to use ordinary junk to splint broken bones.

The point of the training is to help people help themselves and reduce the overwhelming load on professional responders after a big disaster, according to the mass of free CERT material online.

FEMA has gone even further with the CERT program by teaching attenders how to form local teams to complement professional responders in the early aftermath of a disaster. The basic training book – free online - describes CERT as “a bridge to professional responders until they are able to arrive,” which could be up to several hours or even days.

Four CERT teams are active in Clatsop County: Astoria, Cannon Beach, Gearhart and Warrenton-Hammond, all comprised of volunteers willing to learn and prepare together, first for their own areas, but also in cooperation with each other when an area needs extra help.

While the CERT movement is growing slowly in Clatsop County, signs of progress are encouraging.

Vince Aarts, Clatsop County Emergency Management coordinator, has expanded his monthly Citizen Corps meeting from CERT leaders only to all area CERT members, all Medical Reserve Corps members, all Disaster Animal Response Team members and even local Red Cross volunteers.

Hopes are high that momentum will pick up in 2019 as the separate programs cooperate for the common good, Aarts said.

Leading the way in local CERT development, the city of Warrenton unanimously passed Resolution 2527 in September to formally recognize its CERT team. More than just an “atta boy,” the resolution “supports the mission of Warrenton-Hammond CERT to educate community members on natural disaster preparedness and response, and to work with and supplement existing emergency responders in the event of a major disaster.”

Lewis is information officer for Warrenton-Hammond CERT. He can be reached by leaving a message on 503-741-5977 or by emailing

How to help

To volunteer or learn more, contact the coordinator in your area.

Warrenton: Sylvia Stephens, 503-791-5547,

Astoria: Ed Hauer, 503-325-8788 or

Gearhart: Dan Jesse, 503-717-3694 or

Cannon Beach: Mary Beth Cottle, 503-880-4425 or

Trainee Ellen Norris of Astoria uses a fulcrum to move a large heavy log while trainers David Weston and Dell Weston coach. (D.B. Lewis)

Trainees assess a victim for injuries. (D.B. Lewis)

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