Citizens join team to assist in Bay County emergencies

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BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — First responders were stretched thin during Hurricane Michael and they could have used a lot more help, but now there is a program to train average citizens to help during disasters.

Bay County Emergency Operations Center is looking for volunteers right now.

“There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer,” said Community Emergency Response Team members Jennifer Wilburn.

Wilburn will be one of 20 new Bay County CERT team members.

“It’s a program that we have been trying to get started since back in 2018, obviously Hurricane Michael got in the way and we really could have used the team at that point,” said Emergency Management Division Chief Frankie Lumm.

As an Air Force Veteran, Wilburn has seen what natural disasters can do to a community.

“I do come from a family of first responders,” said Wilburn. “So it is near and dear to my heart to be a public servant to help those out around me.”

During Michael, Lumm said CERT teams from other areas of the country came to help us. Now Bay will have volunteers of their own to put boots on the ground.

“They will augment our emergency response staff,” said Lumm. “Their training is two weeks long and will begin November 30 and it’s Tuesdays and Thursday evenings.”

CERT members learn different tasks, everything from passing out sandbags and bottled water, to assisting brand new volunteers.

“Any of the training they do here they will be able to take that anywhere in the state or actually anywhere in the nation,” said Lumm.

Each volunteer will receive a backpack full of equipment to get them started.

The first CERT class was full in ten minutes, but another class is scheduled for next year.

To learn how to sign up for a CERT program visit the Bay County EOC website.

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