Students spent two weekends learning skills that would prove useful in the first three days after a disaster.

Ashland Fire and Rescue's Community Emergency Response Team program finished its spring basic training course this week, graduating 15 Rogue Valley residents.

Students spent two weekends learning skills that would prove useful in the first three days after a disaster. Topics ranged from preparing a disaster readiness kit to light search and rescue skills.

The basic training course will be offered again in the fall.

The program is open to Ashland residents, as well as people from other communities.

The spring basic training course had 10 residents from other cities in the Rogue Valley, showing the influence Ashland's CERT program has in helping to prepare the valley for disasters, CERT Coordinator Richard Randleman said.

Helping residents of other cities become more self-reliant benefits Ashland because valley fire departments have mutual-aid agreements to respond to each others' emergencies, Randleman said.

"A more prepared community reduces the demand for emergency services resources during a disaster," he said.

Talent and Jacksonville have CERT programs, while Shady Cove and Central Point are exploring possible programs, he said.

Ashland's CERT program is funded by the city of Ashland and outside grants.

The public is invited to a graduation and awards ceremony for the spring CERT basic training graduates at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, at Ashland Fire Station No. 1 downtown.

Created in 1999 after the New Year's Day flood of 1997, Ashland's CERT program has trained more than 400 volunteers — making the local program one of the most successful in the nation, city officials said.

CERT has been mobilized more than 30 times for activities ranging from managing emergency shelters during cold spells to evacuating residents during the 2009 Siskiyou wildfire that burned on the outskirts of Ashland.

For more on CERT, visit www.ashlandcert.org or contact Randleman at 541-552-2226 or randler@ashland.or.us.