MONMOUTH — Monmouth Mayor Cec Koontz invited two experts to speak on emergency preparedness at the Sept. 3 council meeting.

Koontz announced and endorsed September as National Preparedness Month at the request of the governor’s office.

“I’m excited that all of these people are here for emergency preparedness,” joked Ben Stange, Polk County Fire District No.1 chief.

The room was full of community members interested in a discussion about peafowl in Monmouth.

Stange said there are incredible groups, such as Polk County Community Emergency Response Team, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross, who give information about emergency preparedness.

“All the information is out there,” he said. “I can’t tell you anything new, nuanced or anything that makes it easier.”

He said if someone witnesses an emergency medical situation — a car crash or a fire — they call 911.

“Typically we show up, there’s panic; there’s chaos; there’s confusion,” Stange said. “We get out and we size it up quickly. We grab our tools. We get to work. They come up and they say, ‘Thank you so much, I could have never done that. I don’t know how you do it.’”

Stange said if he were an accountant driving in a sedan, he wouldn’t be able to handle it either.

“The difference is, we have the tools and we have the training,” he said. “That is the only difference. So when you think about emergency preparation, think about the fact that anybody can do it if they take the resources — all those tools that we know about — the things like having a gallon of water per day, per person at your house, knowing how to shut off the gas at your house. If you can take those things and apply it, then you can actually begin to handle an emergency and take care of yourself when it happens.”

Kimber Townsend, Polk County CERT program director, said it is hard to know where to start.

“We have a lot of stuff on our website, but we also have a class for that,” Townsend said.

A free class that runs three consecutive Saturdays starts in October. In the winter, there is a 10-week series that meets once a week.

“We consider it a catch-and-release program, meaning that our average classes are 25 to 30 people — two or three may join the team,” Townsend said. “The rest just go on to be informed citizens who have learned these skills to be better prepared in their homes and take care of their neighborhoods and bolster the overall resiliency of our communities, and that is overall our goal, so in the end it’s just getting more people into class to learn these skills.”

For more information on CERT: polkcountycert.org.

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