Heather Tietjen joined Wilton’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) three years ago because she had time on her hands and was looking for something to do that would benefit the community. She had some friends who were “certs” and so she checked it out. It has proved to be a meaningful experience for her.

Wilton CERT is inviting citizens to participate in its annual disaster preparedness training course starting Wednesday evening, Oct. 23. Participants will learn from experts how to protect themselves and their families in the event of a fire, large-scale emergency, or weather disaster. The interactive training course teaches many emergency and survival skills to keep citizens safe and to not become victims. The training is free, and those who complete it will be invited to join Wilton CERT, although there is no obligation to do so.

“My father was a police officer and my brother is in the fire field,” Ms. Tietjen said, but she was not looking for a high-octane experience when she considered her volunteer options.

Ms. Tietjen enjoys such assignments as handing out water during power outages, helping at the town shelter, and directing traffic during emergencies or major events, such as the recent CT United motorcycle ride through Wilton.

“The best feeling I got was after the different storms and power outages. I got the sense I was helping people,” she said.

Wilton CERT is a volunteer organization affiliated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. Wilton CERT regularly supports Wilton’s fire and police departments during major town incidents and public events. CERT assists in traffic control, operating the town’s emergency shelter, and distributing emergency supplies when needed.

The upcoming course will extend over 18 hours and covers disaster preparedness, fire safety, terrorism, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, basic medical skills, how to move an injured person, and an overview of the CERT organization.

Wilton is holding the class in conjunction with New Canaan CERT, and three classes will meet in Wilton and three will meet in New Canaan.

The schedule is:

• Wednesday, Oct. 23, Trackside in Wilton.

• Wednesday, Oct. 30, New Canaan location.

• Saturday, Nov. 2, Wilton fire headquarters.

• Wednesday, Nov. 6, New Canaan location.

• Wednesday, Nov. 13, Trackside.

• Saturday, Nov. 16, New Canaan.

In recalling her own experience in the training program, Ms. Tietjen said one of the most valuable lessons was learning to work as a team. They worked on such projects as building a tower of paper.

“You can’t do it all yourself,” she said. “Each piece has to come together.

“The first thing they teach you is family first,” continued Ms. Tietjen, who has lived in Wilton since 2005 with her husband and son. “It gives an awareness to individuals in their own home to say, Where is the fire exit? Where is the means of egress?”

Anyone interested in learning more about the training class may visit wiltoncert.org or email John Stewart at jvstew@optonline.net. Registration may also be accomplished online.