Cape Girardeau fire captain urges business leaders to ready for disaster

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In an area prone to flooding and earthquakes, Capt. Paul Breitenstein of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department told business leaders that now is the time to prepare for a disaster.

Taking the proper precautions, he said, will help businesses weather any economic aftershocks.

"Disaster recovery begins before a disaster," Breitenstein told business leaders at the monthly First Friday Coffee at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. "No business should risk operating without a disaster plan. We urge you to think about the 'what ifs.'"

Among the ways Breitenstein said businesses can prepare is through the Community Emergency Response Training Alliance, for which he serves as an instructor. Since 1991, the alliance has trained more than 6,000 community members for disaster preparedness. Officials from the fire department, Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, Southeast Missouri chapter of the American Red Cross and Southeast Missouri State University have coordinated the training.

Those trained by the alliance assisted in responses to the ice storms, tornadoes and flooding that affected Southeast Missouri this year.

CERT members must be at least 18 years old and complete a 20-hour training program. The course enables participants to handle fire suppression, medical operations, light search and rescue operations, disaster psychology and terrorism. Individuals also participate in a disaster simulation at the end of the course.

The next class is scheduled to begin Feb. 18.

CERT training is also offered for businesses at their respective offices.

"Prevention is a hard sell due in large part to procrastination," Breitenstein said, adding, "Our work is only half complete without you taking action."

Individuals wanting to enroll in the next CERT class can register at www4.semo.edu/training4/CERT1.html or call 986-6879. For more information about the CERT program, call 339-6799 or e-mail jwatkins@cityofcapegirardeau.org.

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

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