Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and VIPS coordinator Steve Wykoff and Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Citizens Police Academy and CERT training classes to return ahead of action-packed summer in Upshur County

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon Citizens Police Academy and Upshur County Community Emergency Response Teams training classes are returning just in time for an event-heavy summer.

Steve Wykoff, Volunteers in Police Service coordinator and director of the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said all Volunteers in Police Service, or VIPS, members must complete both sets of classes, but they are also open to the public.

“We also like to open up both trainings to the general public, so that allows the public to gain training in emergency response, and they can receive the training that they need to take care of their friends, their family, their neighbors until professional emergency services workers or rescuers arrive during any type of natural disaster or emergency situation like that,” Wykoff said.

Wykoff and Gregory said there is a great need for volunteers before several major events in the summer, including the 81st annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival in May, the Almost Heaven BBQ Bash in June and the 2023 World Association of Marching Show Bands competition in July. Both courses are now open to the public and are accepting registrations until Feb. 1, 2023.

Classes will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday evenings starting Feb. 7.

These trainings are particularly helpful in a rural setting, when it may take longer for emergency services to respond, or when there is an influx of people, taxing emergency responses.

“Our professional services are going to be overtaxed and they’re not going to be able to get to everybody as quickly as what they normally do, so for the general public to have that training on how to take care of themselves until help arrives is tremendous, especially being in a rural community,” Wykoff said.

The CERT trainings include classes that teach people how to assemble a three-to-seven-day family emergency kit that would be of use in the event of power outages. The sessions also teach residents how to use a fire extinguisher on small fires, search and rescue techniques and medical triage techniques.

“When you have a disaster or emergency situation, it’s great that people have First Aid and CPR cards, but that education focuses on one individual, one patient, one victim, whereas the medical triage and the medical training that you learn in the CERT class focus on how to deal with multiple victims, as opposed to just one,” Wykoff said.

The classes also teach a little bit of disaster psychology, how to identify terrorism and how to identify hazardous material scenes, whereas the Citizens Police Academy focuses on law enforcement education.

Buckhannon City Police chief Matt Gregory said the six-week program gives people an inside look at law enforcement in general.

“We’ll be looking at everything from our training programs, how we take reports, how we organize our cases,” Gregory said. “We have a self-defense aspect of the Academy. We also have drug recognition that we focus on and our response to that through our involvement in a regional task force. We teach our participants about the canine operations part of our training programs, and we tell them about our use of force simulator, where we go through scenarios that officers may face in the field and how we react and train for those types of situations. We also have a mock crime scene where we talk about investigator principles and allow participants to participate in that type of scenario.”

Gregory said he was glad to see both sets of classes make a return after being on a hiatus due to COVID-19.

“We’ve been doing this – the Citizens Academy — since the late 90s or early 2000s, and the resounding question I heard from many participants during that time period was, ‘this was great information, we learned a lot, now what’s next?’ and we didn’t really have an answer,” Gregory said. “Well, now we do, they can continue with the VIPS program and actually be a volunteer member of the police department.”

Due to the limited availability of seats, advanced registration is required. Registration forms can be found below or on the following web pages:

Documents for the courses:

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