Sacramento CERT Needs You

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG)  |  Story by Trina L. Drotar; Photos courtesy Sacramento CERT
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The Basic CERT course, Level 3, is sanctioned by FEMA and was developed by Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) after the Mexico City and Kobe earthquakes.

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Sacramento’s California Emergency Response Team’s (CERT’s) graduation drill took place on Saturday, September 1 from 2 p.m. – 10 p.m. at the Northern California Regional Public Safety Academy in McClellan Park. The community participated and explored their inner actors as volunteer victims with broken arms or legs or other injuries for the day’s free event.

The drills tested the program’s graduates on practical skills including sizing up a building to determine if it is safe to enter; search and rescue; transport; and triage and treatment. They assessed situations simulating burning buildings and locating victims in dense smoke and at night. Graduates radioed transport crews, practiced victim transport before another group assessed injuries, bandaged, and prepared victims for transport to a medical facility said Robert Ross, Chief, Operations, Sacramento CERT, CERT 22.

“Watching, you don’t get to see as much,” he said, adding that the role of victim teaches more to the community who wants to understand what happens during an emergency such as a fire.

Ross explained that most people see only the end result.

“It’s a good way to see them in action and experience it without being in a collapsed building,” he said.

The Basic CERT course, Level 3, is sanctioned by FEMA and was developed by Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) after the Mexico City and Kobe earthquakes. The course, Ross explained, is for everyday citizens with no previous training or particular skills who want to learn how to prepare for a disaster and is offered at no charge.

“Civilians will be on their own for the first 72 hours,” said Ross, and will learn about disaster psychology and how to prepare bags with the necessities to assist in their immediate neighborhoods. Ross said that people don’t often think about bringing items like pet toys when they need to evacuate. Trained civilians can put out small fires and even triage in their neighborhoods if the need arises, but they need to practice, and that’s where the graduation drill comes in.

Graduates learn about fire behavior, which has been especially bad in California this summer, identification of hazardous materials, including those being transported, and terrorism. Upon graduation, CERT trained civilians can assist locally and can transfer their CERT training to other cities or states if they move. Since the Sacramento region is prone to flooding, this would also be covered in local training.

This level is required in order to continue with advanced courses to be certified as a Disaster Service Worker or a First Responder. Additionally, graduates may pursue training to join one of the special teams – Urban Search & Rescue, Animal Response, or Radio Communications.

“During a disaster cell phones won’t work, satellite phones are few and far between,” said Ross. “Ham operators during Hurricane Katrina passed messages. We can talk to Japan if we need to,” he said.

One legally blind team member who used a motorized wheelchair ran the ham radio and was one of the best in Sacramento.

“There are no limitations on who can participate. There are many ways to be involved, with a job for everyone.”

For additional information, visit www.sfdcert.org. Look for them at many local public events. The next academy will be held in spring of 2019.