Victoria Building mugs

The outside of the Victoria County Courthouse.

A new community preparedness program will train residents to act during emergency situations.

The program, called VictoriaReady, is being run by multiple first-responder agencies, including Victoria’s Office of Emergency Management, the Victoria Police Department, the Victoria Fire Department and the Gulf Bend Center. The program is a six-week course to teach residents different skills and practices to become “ready citizens,” said Rick McBrayer, Victoria’s emergency management coordinator.

McBrayer said for years, he has wanted to create a succinct program to help equip residents to respond during different emergency situations that could arise at any time.

“Oftentimes we give presentations in the community, and oftentimes at the end of those presentations persons ask questions about, ‘How do I get additional training for X,’ whether it’s fire extinguisher training or CPR or things like that,” he said.

VictoriaReady courses are scheduled once a week for six weeks beginning July 23. The courses will cover general disaster preparedness, civilian response to active shooter events, CPR training, fire extinguisher use, fire safety and disaster psychology, said Jena West, Victoria’s public health emergency preparedness coordinator.

The courses will take place at the different first responder facilities, and each course is free. West said about 34 people are currently registered, and there is room for about 30 more participants.

McBrayer said there will be a small graduation ceremony at the end of the program for those who attend all of the classes.

When residents have completed the course, they are eligible to become Victoria Community Emergency Response Team members, or CERT members, West said. CERT members are volunteers who can be asked to help at community events or assist first responders in different situations when needed.

To become CERT members, participants are advised to attend each of the six trainings, West said, through residents are welcome to come to as many as they choose.

“We know that all forms of disaster strike without a moment’s notice, so this is going to give us the capability to teach people a variety of avenues of emergency preparedness in a timely way,” McBrayer said.

Also Monday, commissioners approved the idea to create a pet adoption coordinator position for Victoria County.

David Gonzales, the health department director, said the position will help alleviate some of the heavy workload on the department’s animal control officers, who currently spend some of their time handling the adoption process.

Craig Kirkpatrick, the chief animal control officer, said the department has about 80-100 animals in need of adoption at any given time. Having someone dedicated to pet adoption in this new position should help increase the adoption rate, he said.

There has been an ongoing vacancy for an additional animal control officer position in the health department, and the pet adoption coordinator role will replace the vacant position, meaning the budget will not increase.

The pet adoption coordinator job will begin as a part-time position and may expand into a full-time role depending on the need.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, or on Twitter

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