CERT – Community Emergency Response Team

April 26th, 2009

I’ve just completed a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) 20 hour training course. CERT is a component of the nationwide President’s Citizen Corps volunteer education and training program designed to help individuals working together to be better prepared to respond to “threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds“. The Palm Springs and Cathedral City Fire Departments jointly sponsor and administer the course I took though my class of 40 men and women included residents from several valley communities.

CERT training covers basic skills important to know during disasters when emergency services are not available. The 20 hour training program is divided into a four hour evening lecture session followed by two all-day Saturday sessions of lecture along with team practice time. The seven course topic modules include Disaster Preparedness, Team Organization, Disaster Medical Operations I, Disaster Medical Operations II, Disaster Fire Suppression, Light Search & Rescue Operations, and Disaster Simulation. All courses are taught by certified Disaster Preparedness Training professionals along with equally certified local fire department personnel. Participants who complete all seven course modules receive a certificate attesting completion and membership in the President’s Citizen Corps.
Ongoing CERT training classes are conducted throughout the valley and the ones in Palm Springs/Cathedral City are next scheduled for October 2009. There’s no cost for the training but participants are requested to pay $30 for the unsubsidized portion of the personal support items provided to each participant. Support items include official CERT-labeled backpack, vest and safety helmet, along with safety goggles, gloves, flashlight and batteries, tool for gas shutoff valves, roll of safety tape, yellow lumber crayon, Emergency Survival Blanket, 6″ Lightstick and a face mask. Course materials, in addition to summary notes, include a number of pamphlets, brochures and the CERT Participant Manual.

The CERT program is similar to one I completed about 15 years ago while living in San Francisco. The program there, titled Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT), was and remains an important component in that city’s emergency and disaster preparedness programs. In San Francisco disasters, such as the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, have served to make residents aware of the need for emergency awareness and training, for those past disasters, to most, are more than just a bit of history. It’s my belief Coachella Valley residents need to be more concerned of the need for emergency training and that programs like CERT should receive greater support, publicity and a much higher level of volunteer participation than is presently the case. Enrollment in a CERT training course is as simple as making a phone call to your local fire department. If a conveniently scheduled class is not available in your city, try calling the department in another community. All disaster professionals work together for a common goal is to increase the number of qualified CERT volunteers within our valley.

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