DODGE CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Wildfires, severe weather, and high winds have already left a mark on much of the state over the past few weeks. In western Kansas, groups are gearing up to aid the community during times of emergency.
In Ford County, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is run by trained professionals but also relies heavily on volunteers to help keep emergency response situations running smoothly and effectively.
Everyday people can take on a variety of important roles. The needs are endless, from opening tornado shelters to setting up staging areas to helping with search and rescue.
One group is Ford County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Officials say the group is vital in the county’s response efforts.
“What we have right now is a group of people that if an emergency comes up, we’re hoping they’re available because they’re going to be the people we rely on,” said Glenn Hascall, Ford County OEM Coordinator.
Trained responders teach community members in a six-week program that teaches fire safety, search and rescue, first aid, and other life-saving skills.
“Emergency management is basically Lowes and Home Depot. We supply the resources to the responders,” said Rex Beemer, Ford County OEM Manager.
The program’s goal is to teach everyday people how to take care of themselves, their family, and neighbors during a crisis while first responders may be miles or hours away.
“This is just an example of how we can help individuals do that and move forward in a way that benefits not just the individual, but the community at large,” Hascall said.
Currently, the Office of Emergency Management has around 14 active volunteers, but it needs more.
Responders say they can use anyone’s help whether they want to go through the community response training or not.
Officials say with severe weather and wildfire season well underway, they are stretched thin and need all hands on deck.
“Having more of those available, more individuals available to make that happen, it definitely means that it’s covered, and it’s not so much of a white knuckle ride for us trying to figure out how we’re going to get it all covered,” Hascall said.
Responders say the volunteers are an important puzzle piece in a bigger picture of keeping the community safe. They say just one person willing to help during an emergency can make a big difference.
For additional information on emergency response teams, county updates, and other emergency preparedness details, tune into Need to Know Radio on AM stations 1610-Dodge City, 1670-Spearville, and 1680-Bucklin.