Being prepared: New Santiam CERT organizes for area emergencies

May, 2018 Posted in Community, Your Health

Marion County CERT deployed 12 members to Detroit to check on residents in their homes during the heavy snows of January 2017.

By Mary Owen

Living three decades in Oregon alerted Jack Stillwell to the prospect of the “big one.”

“Eventually, there will be a great earthquake which may disrupt roads, electrical services, food supplies, and cause many deaths and injuries in damaged structures,” said Stillwell, a military veteran, victim advocate, and member of the Church of Latter-day Saints. “I have always been interested in preparedness.”

At Stayton’s SummerFest  in 2016, Stillwell encountered a booth with information about Marion County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). He is now involved with the new Santiam Canyon CERT effort.

“As a new CERT, we have three active members, and two of those are the assigned program managers,” said Stillwell, program manager with Ed Doak. “This is normal for a new CERT and will change as we offer the CERT basic training course in the Santiam Canyon and East Marion County, and people volunteer to be active members.”

Santiam Canyon CERT covers all of Marion County east of Lyons/Mehama as well as the small portion of Linn County that lies along Highway 22 and the North Santiam River in the Santiam Canyon, Stillwell said.

“That is Elkhorn, Lyons, Mill City, Gates, Mehama, Niagara, Detroit, Idhana, Breitenbush and Marion Forks,” he said. “This is a very large area with a number of small cities, multiple fire districts and many campgrounds run by counties, the State Parks Dept., Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service. The complexity of this situation has required that two volunteer managers be assigned to the area.”

The CERT concept was created by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985 to train civilians to meet their own immediate needs. Today, under the umbrella of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this unique disaster volunteer program, now in 28 states and Puerto Rico, educates and trains teams to help their neighborhoods, businesses and communities.

“CERT is the American tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, especially during community disasters,” said Stillwell, who lives in Lyons. “There are several other types of CERT groups: workplace, campus and teen.”

All CERT members must complete a six-week, hands-on intensive training course administered by a sponsoring agency such as an emergency management agency, fire or police department. Participants learn disaster preparedness, fire suppression, medical operations, search and rescue, disaster psychology and team preparedness. Taught by FEMA trained instructors, the course finishes with a review of coursework and a
disaster simulation.

To date, Marion County has 14 CERT programs, including one in Spanish and one for the county. Other program locations include: Gates, Keizer, Mount Angel, Salem, East Salem, Aumsville, Silverton, Stayton, Turner, Woodburn and Gervais.

“Any increase in the number of people more familiar with emergency response protocols, such as the Incident Command System (ICD), and methods increases community preparedness,” Stillwell said. “In addition, experience at a number of severe emergencies has shown that much higher rates of injury and death occur when untrained volunteers assist emergency responders during severe emergencies. CERT also can raise the overall level of community preparedness.”

An orientation meeting will be held at Tuesday, June 5, 7 p.m. at the Gates Fire Hall.

“There will be a training program held in Santiam Canyon as soon as one can be arranged.” Stillwell said. “The course is offered free of charge as a course for anyone interested or as a gateway course for people interested in actively assisting emergency responders in extreme emergencies. There is a final exam required to receive a certificate in which class members respond to a simulated disaster site and interact with victims with simulated injuries.”

For information, message Stillwell at

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.