Volunteer spirit: Lexington County response team expands mission beyond disaster relief

tflach@thestate.comDecember 26, 2013 

Millie Massey, CERT Manager, right, shows Susan Gossett, left, how to use a triangle bandage to make a sling on Sherri Dykes.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LEXINGTON CERT

Lexington County emergency response officials rely on an 88-member corps of volunteers for assistance with disaster recovery as well as mundane tasks like traffic control at festivals and races.

The main mission for members of the Community Emergency Response Team is to offer help in neighborhoods damaged by storms and other catastrophes, but their role is expanding beyond that.

They help with parking and medical care at seven community festivals as well as two dozen races and walks. They also meet with 11 neighborhoods and churches interested in creating crime watches.

“We do a little bit of everything,” said Paula Scaglione of the Lexington area, who has been a team member for six years. “We free up the professionals to do what they’re trained to do.”

Assistance from the volunteers is vital, county officials say.

“It’s extra manpower we don’t have” to take care of minor situations so officials can focus on more serious problems, county emergency management director Michael Kalec said.

During the past year, members donated 2,460 hours for events and training, according to a report to county officials.

The 10-year-old corps joins reserve deputies and volunteer firefighters as another way for residents to assist public safety.

Its members train in several specialties to help neighbors cope with disaster, said team coordinator Millie Massey of Batesburg-Leesville.

Some members are trained in basic first aid, while others concentrate on tasks such as debris removal, setting up sites for medical care and working with church and community groups in providing food and shelter.

“We develop a lot of skills to assist everyone,” Massey said. “It’s the spirit of being able to give and help.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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