Maricopa residents are prepared to assist in an emergency. 

Maricopa added a few more trained volunteers to its Community Emergency Response Team during a graduation ceremony last weekend. 

Since 2009, hundreds of Maricopa residents earned certificates in this Federal Emergency Management Agency program. Maricopa’s CERT program trained 40 volunteers since last year. 

“They’re designed to support first responders in the event of an emergency,” trainer Tim Gercke said. 

Maricopa City Councilmember Eric Goettl, a longtime backer of the program, said training everyday citizens is crucial when seconds and minutes matter in emergencies.  

“We have to have citizens who know what to do in case of an emergency,” he said. “They are often there on the scene long before our police and fire ever get on there.” 

During the pandemic, volunteers helped test and vaccinate. In non-emergency situations, they administer first aid at community events. 

Alacia Ogleton and Arvin Flores assist Debra Gray into a seated position on the ground during a training simulation at the Maricopa Fire Department Administrative Building on Aug. 26, 2023. Gray, who received her CERT training through the Town of Gilbert, played a patient in shock. [Monica D. Spencer]
This is just a drill 

In just two weekend classes, CERT volunteers learn the ins and outs of basic emergency response, like organizing search and rescue efforts, fire suppression and medical assistance.

The program culminated in a simulated disaster drill Saturday. 

The 10-minute exercise challenged volunteers to locate, extract and evaluate victims in an emergency. 

The team extracted six victims covered in faux blood and debris, all acting out varying degrees of trauma. Some wore blood-soaked clothes, some had broken limbs and others acted nonverbal.  

Volunteers received certificates of completion — but they’ll return for additional training. 

Volunteer Alex Ogleton called the experience “educational.” 

“I work in the security and fire industry, so it’s always good to be knowledgeable about any type of safety or emergency response,” he said. “From day one, it was very educational. I loved the hands-on experience.” 

The greatest amount of good 

According to Maricopa Emergency Manager George Burger, CERT empowers the community to help and be helped. 

“Our goal is to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people,” Burger said. 

Interest in the program has climbed steadily over the years. Burger hopes to expand the program with more training courses next year. 

The program certainly piqued Ogleton’s interest. 

“This basic training helps you to be more ready to respond,” he said. “All those things are really beneficial for your community, so that you can respond and help whenever you’re needed.” 

A more prepared and educated community is something Goettl wants to see in the coming years.  

“Bringing this type of information and training into our neighborhoods, I think, is really critical in increasing the readiness of our city and helping it be a safer community,” the city councilmember said. “I’m just hoping we keep building the team.” 

For more information or to register for upcoming classes, visit Maricopa’s CERT website.