I had been getting notifications of CERT classes for some time when I finally found one that would fit in with my schedule. So, with a gentle nudge from community volunteer Carolyn Seitz, I signed up for a January series. I’m glad I did.
What CERT is
Community Emergency Response Team is a 21-hour course, generally held Saturdays and evenings, that teaches preparedness, self-sufficiency, safety, first aid, triage, search and rescue, fire suppression, and the psychology of disaster. The course uses both lectures and hands-on practice to instill the most effective techniques and responses.
Classes, which are free to participants and include a manual, are led by seasoned trainers and underwritten by law enforcement and firefighting agencies across the country, such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Besides the benefits of knowing how to handle emergencies, the classes are a great way to meet other people in the community who are concerned about preparedness and first response training. The class I attended had folks from as far away as the westside of Los Angeles as well as Altadena locals.
We learned cooperation and leadership as we practiced the various tasks associated with disasters and had fun brainstorming and sharing blackout stories. A Facebook group keeps us apprised of where to buy CERT supplies and events going on in the community that are of interest to CERT volunteers.
What CERT isn’t
CERT is not designed to turn citizens into Emergency Medical Technicians or firefighters. Our instructor emphasized two points: “Do the greatest good for the greatest number” and “Don’t bring another victim to the scene” (meaning yourself). CERT trains regular citizens to know what they can handle and leave what they can’t to the professionals.
While CERT volunteers will not replace professionally-trained paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement officers, they will be prepared to take care of themselves and their families for the three days recommended by disaster experts. They will also be able to take leadership in their neighborhoods once their families are squared away.
What CERT teaches
Here’s a brief summary of what volunteers can learn in CERT training:
- Earthquake awareness, disaster preparedness, and hazard mitigation
- Putting together emergency kits for your car, home, and workplace
- Sizing up emergency situations, assessing risks, and personal safety
- Fire suppression, including how to determine if you are able and have the correct equipment to suppress a fire
- Triage of victims
- First aid, including treatment for wounds, burns, fractures, hypo- and hyperthermia, shock
- Search and rescue, including cribbing (lifting heavy objects off victims), triage, and moving victims
- Psychology of disaster for victims and first-responders
- Organizing a command station
- Terrorism and homeland defense
How to become a CERT volunteer
To receive CERT training, all you have to do is sign up for a class. Volunteers must attend all the classes for the full session to earn a certificate of completion. Those who wish to receive further training can take advanced classes after they complete the basic Level One.
CERT trainees also need volunteer victims to practice on. Our class had great actors in the children of a firefighter and several boys from Tecumseh Shackelford’s program at John Muir High School.
Here’s how you find out about upcoming classes: