Saturday a North Carolina CERT team won the Gold for its first place finish as best overall team in the Region IV CERT Conference and Exercise. It also won first place medals in three out of five individual events (Cribbing, Fire Suppression, Search) and second place in the other two (Triage, Rescue).
The NC Team was six members representing five different CERT groups in NC including Caldwell County CERT. This was the first time they worked together. Members of the team were Samantha Royster, team leader, NC CERT Program Manager, and member of Apex CERT; Jay Royster–Apex CERT; Maggie Sloane–Orange County CERT; David Harris–Durham CERT; Randy Stark–Cary CERT; and Shirley Kanode–Caldwell County CERT.
The event was held at the National Guard’s Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a Joint Forces Training Center. Using buildings designed in configurations of model towns to train our various military branches, the seven CERT teams participated in five events for which they were observed and judged throughout the afternoon. Yes, July in southern Mississippi is very hot and humid, particularly wearing all our the CERT gear and packs! The teams were grateful for all the cold water provided.
The NC team members were excited and proud of their first place finish, but even more importantly, learned more about the various emergency skills that may be required of CERT members. Noteworthy was the emphasis the judges placed on safety and use of PPE (personal protective equipment of hard hats, work and exam gloves, goggles, and N95 masks.) Team organization, documentation, communication, and having someone assigned as a safety officer were also important components of the exercises. The experience we gained doing the exercises will be used to improve our CERT training in our respective home CERT teams.
NC CERT provided the van for the 12-hour drive to Hattiesburg, and Jay Royster provided NC CERT team t-shirts. The hosting CERT provided housing on base and meals for the participating teams, event t-shirts, medals, and mementos. David Nichols, mayor of Hattiesburg, CERT expert, and a force of nature, organized the event and took good care of everyone.
There were presentations Saturday morning about nationally-recognized programs for youth and teens created and implemented in Mississippi and online resources.