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Horses add to Island preparedness

The CERT equestrian group is ready to help at a recent drill. From left are Penni Symonds, Beth Kellner, Wanda Moore and Mary O’Brien. Craig Harmeling will join the team soon - Courtesy Photo
The CERT equestrian group is ready to help at a recent drill. From left are Penni Symonds, Beth Kellner, Wanda Moore and Mary O’Brien. Craig Harmeling will join the team soon
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Members of Vashon’s Community Emergency Response Team are trained in a variety of emergency response skills, and now their efforts will be enhanced by some of the Island’s equestrians and their horses.

It’s an idea that makes a lot of sense, according to Island horse trainer Beth Kellner, who organized the program. Horses can provide several benefits during a disaster — navigating areas not accessible to cars, providing speed not available to those on foot and assisting with transport of supplies to emergency workers.

All of the riders involved are longtime CERT members, Kellner said, and they recently retook the 40-hour CERT class to refresh  their skills. The idea to get horses involved, brewing since CERT first began on Vashon some nine years ago, came to the fore during the class.

“We came away thinking, ‘Horses can help. How could they be part of the solution?’” she said.

With that, Kellner began work on the project in earnest, creating guidelines for who can participate, defining why such a service would be useful and making a list of the supplies horse and rider teams need as part of their CERT “Go-Kits” used during emergencies.

In July, Kellner and her fellow equestrian CERT members participated on

horseback in a CERT-sponsored search and rescue drill at Island Center Forest. They impressed Michael Cochrane, who manages the CERT program with his wife Catherine.

“They did an outstanding job,” he said.

Kellner agreed the drill was a success and that the horses enjoyed it too.

“We could tell when we were on them that the horses were so into the drill,” she said. “Horses love having a job.”

In the coming months, Kellner expects the horses and riders will practice twice a month to be effective and safe in their work. To become a strong team, she said, “The people have to practice together, and the horses have to practice together.”

Cochrane said King County’s Office of Emergen-cy Management must recognize the standards Kellner wrote; he expects it will.

“This is a wonderful addition to the search and rescue program,” he said. “It’s quite an effort.”

 

 

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