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Grant boosts Fla. emergency response team

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla Miramar is receiving state money to continue its Community Emergency Response Team.

Grants, financed through the Department of Homeland Security, were awarded to four cities in Broward County to help train volunteers for CERT programs. They learn techniques including treatment of broken bones and search-and-rescue skills so they can assist themselves and others after an emergency situation such as a hurricane, tornado or flood.

Miramar got an $11,600 reimbursement grant. The state received $625,584 for distribution to the cities that applied. It kept 20 percent, or $125,116, for its CERT and Citizen Corps efforts and allocated the rest, $500,468, among the cities, according to Erin L. Hays, State Citizen Corps/CERT coordinator for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“We gave out 55 local sub-grants throughout the state. It was the most cities funded in one year, and more people are applying with more groups being created,” Hays said.

This year, all the sub-grantees were funded at 58 percent of their originally requested amount. The decision was made based on reduced funding levels coming from the federal level, she said.

Miramar’s CERT program started in 2004 and has trained more than 200 volunteers. A new class is set to start in August. The grant money will help pay for supplies and equipment to conduct CERT classes, as well as for some instructors, according to Romeo Lavarias, the director of emergency management operations who oversees the CERT program.

“Funding would be a challenge without the grant. We have a budget for CERT, but it would only be enough for one or two classes, and these additional monies allow for more classes,” he said.

The other south Broward city awarded, Hallandale Beach, received a $10,000 reimbursement grant.

Started in 2001, Hallandale Beach’s CERT program has 175 volunteers. Alex Baird, the city’s EMS division chief, said the grant helps supplement his CERT budget.

“This grant is great and gives volunteers what they need to provide services and get people prepared if we do have a disaster,” Baird said. “It allows me to buy more equipment and use some funds for other needs like advanced education classes and possibly sending the team to a CERT conference.”

Fort Lauderdale received an $11,600 grant and Deerfield Beach $10,000