Disaster can hit at any time, from violent wind and electrical storms, tornados, blizzards and even train derailments.

Disaster can hit at any time, from violent wind and electrical storms, tornados, blizzards and even train derailments.

That's why the Fairfield County Emergency Management Agency needs citizen responders who can be at the ready and mobilize when called upon to assist fire and police in case of an emergency.

And that's why the agency is conducting a series of training classes for its Community Emergency Response Team to get area residents involved at the local level with response activities.

Director of FCEMA, John Kochis, said it is important to get citizens enrolled because in 95 percent of emergencies, a victim or bystander provides the first immediate assistance on the scene, making CERT-trained responders a priceless asset in a time of a local emergency.

Kochis said all it takes to be a member of CERT is a desire to serve the community.

"We teach the course to any citizen that wants to join," he said." It teaches them the basics of what they can do to help out in an emergency."

The CERT training courses include information about disaster preparedness, first aid, fire safety and utility controls, light search and rescue, disaster psychology and terrorism.

Kochis said there are also roles for those who want to work on damage assessment teams "that go out and try to get an idea of how the county is impacted."

He said the need for CERT operatives was never more evident than last summer, when a series of violent storms rattled Fairfield County, knocking out power and causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

"That was a big one for us," Kochis said.

"(Damage) was widespread all throughout the county," he said.

"We had CERT (members) go door to door, handing out water and making sure everyone was OK. We did that for several days," Kochis said.

He said the damage assessment teams were instrumental in helping the county and townships recoup money lost because of the storms.

"They walked the neighborhoods and completed a form for each house," Kochis said.

"We use those to make our case that it's a major disaster at the state and federal level," he said. "That's how the emergency process works, it starts at the local level."

He said Violet Township CERT members will be responding to township emergencies.

"We respect where people live. If it's a localized disaster, we make sure we get the Violet Township people there first."

Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance said CERT volunteers "dedicate their valuable time to staying responsibly trained and prepared to assist their community during times following worst-case unpredictable scenarios when our local emergency services resources could be stretched thin or (are) in need of additional assistance."

CERT training is scheduled from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on April 9, 11, 16, and 18 in room 27 at Ohio University-Pickerington, 12933 Stonecreek Drive, Pickerington. The final session will be held April 20 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m, also at OU-Pickerington, but in room 101.

The free training is open to anyone 18 years old or older. Participants must register in advance to enroll and attendance at each of the five sessions is required for certification.

To register call 740-654-4357 or go on-line to www.fairfieldema.com.