Neighborhood Emergency Teams are ordinary men and women, who have been trained to help out their neighbors in an emergency. Pictured here are members of the Woodlawn NET. You don't need to be specially fit or strong. If you are 14 or older, you can sign up to train as a NET volunteer.
You know you have what it takes to save lives during a disaster. All you need is a little knowledge, a chance to practice your skills and some tips from the experts. That's the big idea behind the Neighborhood Emergency Team program, which offers free training to anyone aged 14 and older who lives in Portland. Funded through the city's Office of Emergency Management and run by seasoned firefighters, the program offers eight sessions of concentrated hero training.
"It's absolutely critical that people get trained," said the program's coordinator, Lawrence Behmer. "This is about neighbors helping neighbors when it has to count."
The trainings are held at a large firefighter training campus in Northeast Portland, and usually run for eight weeks on either Wednesday evenings or Satu-rdays. Firefighters teach NET volunteers essential disaster skills such as how to act quickly to secure homes and streets by turning off unsafe utilities, and how to deal with hazardous materials. Volunteers learn how to assess injuries and administer first aid. They even learn how to pull people out of wrecked buildings safely.
Clarence Harper, a former youth counselor who is now a volunteer dispatcher for the Red Cross, has been an emergency volunteer since 1995.
"I would recommend people to call the NET program," he said. "It's a really valuable training: you get first aid training and it's a good confidence builder. I'm really happy, it's been a very positive experience for me."
Harper said that thanks to his training he has been able to help others – possibly saving their lives. On the scene when a stranger collapsed with a heart attack, he was able to administer CPR until an ambulance arrived. On another occasion, Harper saw smoke coming from an apartment.
"I broke the glass and grabbed a fire extinguisher," Harper said. "I put my hand on the door to make sure it wasn't hot — and it wasn't so I went in. The bed was on fire so I just used the fire extinguisher to put it out.
"A guy had passed out in the bathroom and I could smell alcohol on his breath. He was unresponsive so I dragged him out of there." When firefighters arrived they joked he was putting them out of a job.
Ethan Jewett, who heads the Woodlawn Neighborhood Emergency Team, said he hopes more people in North and Northeast Portland find out about the training and join up.
"The whole point of NET is that no city could have enough firefighters on hand waiting in case of an emergency. It's just not possible."
Diversity is the key to an effective team, Jewett said, because it makes trust and communication possible during a crisis. He's keen to work with more people of color and people who speak Spanish, for example.
"It's not like I just want some Spanish speakers on my team: it's that I need them on my team," he said. "NET teams need people who can communicate with people in their own languages."
The next NET training starts Sept. 17 and is open to anyone over 14. Sign up at the Web site http://www.pdxprepared.net or call Lawrence Behmer at 503-823-4421.