If disaster strikes Becky Allen’s neighborhood, she knows how to turn off the gas, give first aid to neighbors and keep them calm until emergency workers arrive.

For Allen, that knowledge is important because she has a desire to help others, which is why she signed up for community emergency response teams, or CERT, training.

“I had done some firefighting in my younger days, so I had EMT skills, but there was something I was missing,” Allen said.

“I really wanted to get back into this, and this was the best way to do it and learn how people can help their neighbors.”

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The eight-week class prepares people to be able to assist themselves and neighbors in case of any emergency. From fire suppression to disaster preparedness, the courses are hands on, with a final test at the end to receive certification which states that they have the training needed to respond during emergencies. Each person who goes through the training receives a backpack filled with gloves, bandages, food and more. Not only do the bags provide people the supplies they need, it shows them what they should always have in their car or vehicle. The training is sponsored by Johnson County Community Organizations Active in Disaster, which was started in 2008 after the flood.

Following the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush selected CERT to be one of the main programs of the new Citizens Corps — an organization that works to make individuals prepared to help during crimes, terrorist attacks or disasters. Today, CERT training takes place in all 50 states.

“The idea is to prepare people how to help themselves,” said Tim White, who works for the Indiana Guard Reserves and has been leading the class since 2008. “It’s very important in Johnson County and elsewhere to also be able to respond and help yourself and your neighbor — especially with the flooding we’ve received over the years.”

Allen, who is a JCCOAD board member, hopes to one day become a CERT trainer.

She was most surprised about the wide range of skills they learned — from turning off gas lines to triage. Allen plans to bring her skills and knowledge to her neighborhood’s homeowners association in hopes of having other neighbors taking the class.

“If more people embrace this, then all people in a community can help each other,” she said.

Among the dozen Johnson County residents who completed the CERT training is Howard Harrell.

“It’s nice to be prepared and be able to help when someone needs it,” said Harrell, a Franklin resident who completed the training.

“We all have bags with items like basic tools, food and warm clothes.”

As a security guard at Franklin College for many years, Stan Lewis said he has knowledge on how to help people. But during the flood of 2008, he didn’t know how to help those stuck in the flood waters, or what to do if someone’s house was going under water. That drove him to want to learn how to help.

“This teaches you how to physically help people out,” Lewis said. “It’s a skill you hope you never need, but one that you’ll have just in case now.”

At a glance

To get involved or find out when the next class session is, contact JCCOAD at jccoad@gmail.com.