What Is CERT?
Scenario: A magnitude 6.5 earthquake strikes Los Angeles County causing widespread damages, power outages, and road closures. Many buildings are damaged; people are injured; and emergency responders are overwhelmed and unreachable. If your home, family, or neighborhood was affected, would you know what to do?
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trainingteaches emergency preparedness and disaster response skills to regular people, so that they can safely help themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods during major emergencies where first responders may be delayed.
People who go through CERT training have a better understanding of the potential threats to their home, workplace and community and can take the right steps to lessen the effects of these hazards on themselves, their homes or workplace. If a disaster happens that overwhelms local response capability, CERT members can apply the training learned in the classroom and during exercises to give critical support to their family, loved ones, neighbors or associates in their immediate area until help arrives. When help does arrive, CERT trained residents can provide useful information to professional responders and support their efforts, as directed, at the disaster site.
Taught by experienced instructors from the City of Downey Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management, and CERT volunteer instructors, the free training combines 20 hours of classroom learning with hands-on training. CERT students learn disaster preparedness, light search and rescue techniques, disaster medicine, fire suppression, lifting and cribbing, and other necessary life safety skills. At the end of training, students put all their new skills to use responding to a simulated disaster in a realistic, half-day field training exercise.
Where and When Is CERT Training?
Who Can Take CERT Training?
All people 18 years or older who live or work in the City of Downey are eligible for CERT training. Students of all abilities are welcome to participate.
How Do I Sign Up for CERT Training?
In addition to the 20 hour Basic CERT Course, individuals who wish to broaden their training and experience may join the City of Downey Advanced CERT (ACERT) Program. These volunteers are held to specific training and credentialing standards, must pass a City of Downey background check, and are authorized to assist the City in a variety of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery functions as affiliated disaster volunteers.
Throughout the year, ACERT members can also learn new skills, take refresher courses, and participate in additional training exercises. ACERT members can increase their knowledge and capability by attending classes provided by the City of Downey on animal care in disaster, shelter management, debris removal, post disaster damage assessments, advanced first aid, Automatic External Defibrillator use, CPR skills, and others. The City of Downey ACERT program administrators maintain records of this training and may call upon CERT members when these additional skills are needed in the community.
ACERT member also can use their skills to help the program flourish by volunteering at schedule outreach and community safety events, produce a newsletter, perform administrative work, or take leadership positions.
Email Ready@downeyca.org for more information on CERT training or how to become involved in the Downey ACERT program.
Does CERT Training Cost Anything?
Basic CERT training is free to all Downey residents. In addition, Basic CERT graduates are given a backpack filled with disaster response and personal protective equipment, including a helmet, reflective vest, and other emergency response equipment. Here's an example of some provided gear that may be provided:
History of CERT
Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment's notice through 911. People will have to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate life saving and life sustaining needs. It is expected that under these disaster conditions, family members, fellow employees, and neighbors will spontaneously try to help each other. This occurred following the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake where untrained, spontaneous volunteers saved 800 people. However, 100 people lost their lives while attempting to save others.
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them to safely excute basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help.
The CERT concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Further, it confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs. As a result, the LAFD created the Disaster Preparedness Division with the purpose of training citizens and private and government employees.
The training program that LAFD initiated helped citizens understand their responsibility in preparing for disaster. It also increases their ability to safely help themselves, their family and their neighbors. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognizes the importance of preparing citizens; and the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and the National Fire Academy adopted and expanded the CERT concept applying it to all hazards.
The CERT course will benefit any citizen who takes it. It prepares the individual to be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster. Additionally, if a community wants to supplement its response capability after a disaster, civilians can be recruited and trained as neighborhood, business, and government teams that, in essence, will be auxiliary responders. These groups can provide immediate assistance to victims in their area, organize spontaneous volunteers who have not had the training, and collect disaster intelligence that will assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster. Since 1993 when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 States and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training.
For additional information, or if you would like to join, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or, you may contact the Downey Office of Emergency Management at:
Rakdy Khlok, Emergency Manager
Downey Fire Department
11111 Brookshire Avenue
Downey, CA 90241