Daniel Hunnisett said he was waiting to vote Tuesday at the Alerus Center when he heard a loud noise outside.
"There was a 'boom' in the parking lot, and one of the security guards said there was a fire," the Grand Forks resident recalled Thursday.
Hunnisett, a member-in-training for a recently organized citizen emergency response team for Grand Forks County, said he proceeded to jump out of line and help-he got people on the scene to call 911, helped move a nearby food truck and redirected traffic until the Grand Forks Fire Department arrived.
"And then I went back in, and I voted," he said.
CERT is a national program dating back to 1985. Over the years, it's grown large enough to host more than 2,700 programs nationwide, with roughly 600,000 trained volunteers since Federal Emergency Management Agency made curriculum nationally available in 1993.
Grand Forks County Emergency Management began assembling its first local team, aside from one at Grand Forks International Airport, over the summer. The first class finished its mandated 20 hours of training the weekend of Oct. 19. A second class has been meeting almost every Thursday night since Oct. 4, and a third class will train on the weekend of Nov. 16.
So far, 21 people have signed up for the latter course, Emergency Management Director Kari Goelz said.
Students learned Thursday night about fire and utility control from firefighters Pat Lorenson and Josh Russell. Goelz said she has seen responders from groups like Grand Forks Fire and Altru lead lectures.
"It's important for them to understand it's not ever going to be as easy as splinting and bandaging," Goelz said. "Having responders come in helps newbies understand and get prepared for the trauma."
There's a lot of content in the CERT curriculum, but the information isn't overwhelming, Fire Battalion Chief Chad Cutshaw said.
"We're enforcing what people should already know," he said.
Russell and Lorenson emphasized that sentiment during Thursday's class, while highlighting rescuer safety and an awareness of one's surroundings as top priority.
Goelz plans to have a graduation ceremony for the CERT members Dec. 8, with Mayor Mike Brown and County Commissioner Diane Knauf. Afterward, students will be ready to help in the event of any disasters or weather emergencies.
"It's essentially neighbors helping neighbors until help can arrive," Cutshaw said.
Trained CERT members can redirect traffic, give basic medical help to victims and document scenes for first responders.
"All of public safety is usually pretty strapped for the first several hours of a disaster," Goelz said, later referring to her trainees a "force multiplier."
After the students graduate, Goelz said she plans to have monthly meetings starting in January.
"Hopefully disasters don't happen very often," she said. "The goal is to keep them engaged through training, so if the time comes, we're ready."
She'd also like members to staff storm shelters during weather emergencies, she said.
Most CERT volunteers are from Grand Forks, Goelz said, with a handful from other cities in the county like Emerado and Thompson. One day, Emergency Management might start a teen CERT or another adult team to make sure everyone in the county is covered.
"There's a lot of logistics to this class," Goelz said. "To do it right requires some pretty big planning."
Emergency Management is still accepting CERT members for the next weekend course starting Nov. 16, Goelz said. Anyone who's interested can contact her office through the Grand Forks Emergency Management page on Facebook or the department's email, email@example.com.