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Mary Beenken, Published November 14 2010

New American leaders receive Community Emergency Response Team training

New American community leaders in the metro area are learning how to assist and respond to emergencies through Community Emergency Response Team training.

Doug Murphey, Fargo Cass Public Health coordinator, said the course is being held after many immigrant and refugee groups requested training for members of their communities.

Leaders receive 20 hours of training over four Saturdays.

“They want to have more of a vested role in emergency preparedness here,” Murphey said. “In an emergency of any kind, they can help themselves and their community.”

CERT is a program that trains people to prepare for natural disasters and address basic search and rescue and medical operations. The hope is that New American community leaders will use the training to act as liaisons for their communities and assist members of their ­communities in emergencies, said Leon Schlafmann, Fargo’s emergency services coordinator.

“The value is having another group of people out there who can respond when no one else can,” Schlafmann said.

David Ideele is a New American community leader from Nigeria. While he has lived in Fargo for 10 years and has adjusted to American life, he said many newcomers are simply afraid to use resources like fire departments, hospitals or police officers.

“We do have some of our people in the community who have fear,” Ideele said. “It’s more the perception than the reality.”

Haider Mohammad, a New American community leader from Iraq, said another problem is that some immigrants do not know how to access public services.

“They didn’t know the procedure of everything,” he said. “The United States is just like other countries. They have their routine.”

There are also problems on the emergency response side. Often, responders are unable to understand immigrants when they ask for help, or they are unsure of what cultural boundaries they should respect. Ideele said that some people are so afraid of offending another culture that they don’t take action.

“Because there has been so much emphasis on culture, people are afraid to help,” he said.

According to Ideele, having New Americans as first responders will help members of their communities feel safer when calling for help.

“Now they can call me and say, ‘David, I need you here.’ And I can be there in 10 minutes,” Ideele said.

Mohammad said that the training will also help New Americans who are wary of public services by being able to explain procedures that they may not have encountered before.

“This training is making (a) bridge between government establishments and communities because we can just explain what they are going to do,” Mohammad said.

While this is the first time the course has been offered specifically to New Americans, Schlafmann said he hopes it is just the beginning of an ongoing effort to help immigrant communities feel more at home in Fargo-Moorhead.

“We hope it’s a first step in an ongoing relationship with this group,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Beenken at (970) 227-5613