13 Backpacks and dozens of other supplies were brought to Station 3 during a luncheon with the Mesquite CERT Program and the City of Las Vegas Office of Emergency Management on May 15. The donation will save Mesquite nearly $1,500. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

Representatives with the City of Las Vegas Emergency Management office donated 13 fully supplied backpacks and other much needed supplies to the Mesquite Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) during a luncheon on May 15. Each bag is valued at around $100 each.

The supplies were purchased through a grant with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that assists with teams who run on a tight budget. With just $1,500 a year, Mesquite’s CERT qualifies.

“As long as you have participants that are completing the program, we will always make sure that you have the things that you need,” said Carolyn Levering, the Emergency Manager at the Las Vegas office. “We are more than happy to help out,” she said.

Mesquite CERT Director Mike Benham connected with Levering in December when then Fire Chief Kash Christopher requested he go to an Emergency Management conference. “This wouldn’t have happened without Kash,” said Benham.

“The CERT Program was designed for a city like Mesquite, where neighbors are helping neighbors,” said Levering. “They take the time to do the training, and in the long run, it helps more people than the people in the program.”

Levering added that they will leverage the Mesquite CERT program as much as they can through the Federal program and will help with whatever they can. “I may be an hour down the road, but we’re all neighbors,” she said. “You’re starting to grow again here. Public safety is not cheap, and it’s not free. If you’re not funding it properly then you’re not going to be able to do your job and provide your city with the services they need. If your community isn’t safe, then you don’t have a community.”

Mesquite CERT Director, Mike Benham, talks with Carolyn Levering, the Emergency Manager for the City of Las Vegas Office of Emergency Management. Benham and Levering met at an Emergency Management Conference in December. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

“Emergencies happen, regardless of your size, whether you are a big city like Las Vegas or a smaller one like Mesquite, everybody is affected, whether it be fires, floods or someone who is harmed, and CERT helps prepare for that,” said Guy DeMarco, an Emergency Management Specialist with the Las Vegas office.

Benham also announced the appointment of a new Assistant Director, Dan Chess, who has several years of experience in the emergency services field. “He’s going to be a great asset for us and our program,” said Benham.

Future plans for Benham and Chess include travelling to the Emergency Management Institute in Maryland to become instructors with CERT, through resources available through FEMA. The only cost to the city would be one week of meals, as the travel and lodging is reimbursed by FEMA. Once Benham and Chess have been approved through an application process, they will get into the class within the next few months. The certification that they will earn through the classes will allow them to become CERT instructors and help people here learn more about emergency management.

The Mesquite CERT was established in 2004, with four or five active members, including Mesquite Fire Rescue’s Tyler Black, who is the only remaining original volunteer.

“People’s lives change, so we’re always changing,” said Black. “But the good thing is that when you come here and learn this stuff, it sticks with you and you can apply that elsewhere.” Being that the emphasis with CERT has been community education that hits right up their alley.

At the peak of 2016, Benham had 20 members. With the snowbirds leaving and several members who are out for medical problems, there are just five left for the summer, with several new members pending.

“All that is required is to take a test online and volunteering your time,” said Benham.

Besides educating the community, the Mesquite CERT changes smoke detector batteries for the older residents of Mesquite and Bunkerville once a month by appointment. “The biggest problem with this program now, that we’re finding, is that he smoke detectors are expiring,” said Benham. While CERT won’t pay for those detectors, they may be able to help install them. CERT is always looking for new members, and encourage anyone to join. The main requirements for being a CERT member is to be over the age of 18 and to take an online test. For more information on CERT, email certmesquitenv@gmail.com or call Lindy Hulet at Fire Station 3, 702-346-2690.