Estero Fire Rescue plans next Community Emergency Response Training class

By DENISE L. SCOTT, [email protected]

• WHAT: Estero Fire Rescue’s Community Emergency Response Training class
• WHEN: 1-5 p.m. every Thursday for six weeks starting June 19
• WHERE: The Enrichment Center in The Brooks’ Town Center, 9930 Coconut Road, Estero
• COST: Free for Estero residents and those who work in Estero
• INFORMATION: To register, call Fire Marshal Michael Cato at 947-3473. For information on other classes, visit the Web site

Estero Fire Rescue officials want to empower community members with training about basic fire extinguishing, first aid, mass casualties, building searches, chemical and biological hazards and more.

“After Hurricane Andrew, the Miami-Dade fire department was just as much victims as the other residents,” Fire Marshal Michael Cato said. “They needed all kinds of help in search and rescue operations.

“The same thing with the Sept. 11 disaster. CERT gives little neighborhoods a team that can respond, in their own neighborhood, with basic assistance until our units can arrive.”

The next Community Emergency Response Training, or CERT, class will start on June 19.

It will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. every Thursday for six weeks starting at the Enrichment Center in The Brooks’ Town Center. It’s free for Estero residents and people who work in Estero.

At the end of the program, participants will take part in a mock disaster drill.

“This is a seasonal community,” Fire Marshal Michael Cato said. “In the summer, it’s difficult for us to get a decent number (to attend). We would consider, if we had the interest, doing a night class.”

Cato said this CERT session is far from its goal of at least 12 participants. That’s surprising to Melvin Milstein, 76, who lives in Fountain Lakes in Estero. He expected to be put on a waiting list for the class.

“I feel people should be knowledgeable about what would happen in an emergency,” said Milstein, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and former Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

“I can’t believe there aren’t enough people. It could be laziness or let-the-other-guy-do-it syndrome.”

Part of the job of the fire department’s new community relations manager (yet to be named) will be to help make Estero’s communities better aware of the programs available to them.

“We have a whole variety of services we offer that don’t even get taken advantage of,” Cato said. That list of courses can be found at

Estero Fire Rescue has also hired health educator Amy Demski, 23, of South Fort Myers, as its public education specialist. She plans to expand offerings of certification classes in CPR and automatic external defibrillators.

“We want to increase flexibility so more people can participate,” she said about night and weekend offerings.

She also plans to boost the Risk Watch safety program, in which she would teach Lee County teachers a curriculum to be passed on to their students.

Demski has been a health educator and internship coordinator at Florida Gulf Coast University for the past year and a half.

Her contract expires the end of this month, and she will begin her duties with Estero Fire Rescue on Monday, July 7.

“We’re excited to have somebody of her caliber coming on board,” Cato said. “She’s going to be able to spend all of her time doing community training programs.”

Cato said some of those classes are free and some have nominal fees. “It’s probably the most cost-effective investment any community can make.”