Ashland's Community Emergency Response Team completed its winter basic training course on Feb. 24 with a disaster simulation exercise despite heavy snow from the recent winter storm

Ashland's Community Emergency Response Team completed its winter basic training course on Feb. 24 with a disaster simulation exercise despite heavy snow from the recent winter storm.

This was the largest class, with 26 graduates, since CERT was founded in 1999. It also represents the 500th citizen trained to be prepared when disaster strikes.

A recent partnership with Southern Oregon University has bolstered the number of people participating in CERT's basic training and the program is on track to add more than 50 new members this year.

"This is an exciting time to be a member of Ashland CERT," said Richard Randleman, Ashland CERT coordinator. "We adopted a new leadership track for members who wish to enhance their skills and the new graduates will fill positions left open as our more experienced members move up in leadership responsibilities."

Participants in CERT basic training learn to help themselves, their families, and community members immediately following a disaster when emergency might be overwhelmed and unable to help everyone immediately. Through training ranging from disaster kits to search and rescue, graduates are able assemble a team to help people following

a disaster. The class will be offered again in April.

Created in 1999 after the community experienced a severe flood on New Year day 1997, Ashland's CERT program has trained more than 500 volunteers to be better prepared during disaster, making Ashland's CERT program one of the most successful in the nation, according to CERT officials. Ashland CERT mobilized three times in 2010, conducting two search-and-rescue missions and assisting during the Oak Knoll fire.

In 2010, CERT members contributed more than 2,400 hours of volunteer time.

More information about CERT can be found at www.ashlandcert.org or by contacting Richard Randleman, the CERT program coordinator at 541-552-2226 or randler@ashland.or.us.