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Keystone prepares emergency responders

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 05:38 PM
KEYSTONE -

There was finality to it for Barbie Siwik.

During an exercise in which Siwik and her husband, Bob, as well as other members of the Keystone community, trained to become CERT – Community Emergency Response Team – certified, the group learned how to triage victims of disasters.

The mock victims were marked with different colored tags. Red meant immediate attention; green was for the walking wounded; and black meant a victim had succumbed to his or her injuries.

"It's overwhelming to think you would have to do that," Barbie Siwik said. "You would want to think you would keep trying to revive them or something and they said you can't.

"When it's an emergency, you can't spend a lot of time and that really is kind of scary."

Keystone joined the ranks of communities in the Tampa area as well as the state to become members of the CERT. The teams help local law enforcement and rescuers during emergencies.

"I always tell these folks, same with the ones in Keystone, I thank these folks for stepping up," said Temple Terrace Fire Chief Phil Amiger, who helped train the Keystone group. "They stepped up and want to take care of their neighborhood, their families."

A CERT team can serve as first responder if a neighborhood is cut off from the local law enforcement, fire crews or EMS units.

The program was started in 1985 by the Los Angeles City Fire Department and since has spread to more than 1,000 groups in the nation with the ability to respond if called upon.

It doesn't have to be during a large-scale disaster, either. CERT members can come in handy when searching for those who are missing or during large events in which local officials need help with things as simple as directing traffic.

"There are two goals in CERT and you hammer those in," said Bob Siwik, director of Keystone's CERT and Emergency Operation Plan programs. "The number one goal is to keep all you CERT volunteers safe. It's great training, but they're still not firemen or ambulance folks. None of us are. You don't want to get them hurt. … They can't help others if they're busy tending to themselves.

"And goal number two is the greatest good for the greatest number. How can we help the first responders search buildings, direct traffic, bring supplies? Whatever it is we need, we can do."

Siwik started with a military police platoon in Vietnam for a year and a half before joining the sheriff's office for another year and a half. He went on to spend 30 years in the USF Police Department (15 years at the Tampa campus and 15 years at the St. Petersburg campus), retiring in 2005 as chief of police at the USF St. Petersburg campus.

Becoming a member of the Keystone CERT team was a natural progression for Glenn Winograd, a New York native.

While studying business at the University of Florida, Winograd began taking EMT courses at Santa Fe Community College. For roughly five years in the early 1980s, Winograd drove a quick-response truck and helped people in medical need.

In addition to his medical background, he and his wife, Anne, along with several friends, own West Coast Morgans Farm in Odessa. There are 31 acres of space for staging and equipment that would allow them to get to places in emergencies.

"I think, A, it's an exciting thing to do," said Winograd, who serves as the EOP coordinator. "B, it's a neighborhood where everybody wants to help everybody and this was the easiest way to get people to say, 'I will help.' … If I can do something in a major disaster, the county is going to be overwhelmed and overtaxed, and we felt the way to start all this was with grass roots; neighbor helping neighbor."

Having the law enforcement experience of Bob Siwik and medical background of Winograd, in addition to everything to which the Keystone community has access, Amiger is confident they will do fine as a whole.

"Keystone, they have a little bit of everything on their team," Amiger said. "They really developed a really good team because they have folks who are able to get a lot done. They have people who know people who can get heavy equipment and [other essential] things into their neighborhood."

Winograd said once the flyer and email went out advertising the Keystone Civic Association's desire to create a CERT team to go along with its EOP, the response was positive.

One of those who responded was Quantum Leap Farm founder Edie Dopking.

She recalled when Hurricane Andrew plowed into South Florida as a Category 5 storm in August 1992. Shortly thereafter, many of her friends who owned horses made their way to the area to help those in need.

"It took days for people to get organized and I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, what if that happened here?'" Dopking said.

Since then Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 destroyed parts of New Orleans and southern Louisiana, so when the call went out in Keystone, it was a no-brainer.

"It makes me feel more secure that something would happen quickly and it's not like we'd be waiting for FEMA," she said. "We've got a group of people; we have each other's contact information; we know what to do in the event that something happens.

"There's a plan in place."


edaniels@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7928 Twitter: @EddieDTampaTrib

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