Being prepared: Michael Velasquez talks about CERT during a fire preparedness fair held at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair on Sept. 29, 2019. Photo Zoë Strickland


Training will be a mix of online and in-person classes

Northern Sonoma County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) group is looking for more volunteers. In times of emergency like fires, floods or pandemics, CERT volunteers mobilize at the request of official county or emergency entities.

Right now, CERT has 71 volunteer members and has most recently been activated during the Glass and Walbridge fires, as well as to help with COVID-19. As part of their work, the team has provided support to both the Sonoma County Emergency Operations Center and to the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Emergency Shelter.

“In order to allow new volunteers to begin training for certification as a member of a Community Emergency Response Team, the National CERT Association in conjunction with the University of Utah School of Medicine created an online classroom self-study program that volunteers can use to complete some of the training for certification,” Northern Sonoma County CERT Program Manager Geoff Peters said.

“This self-study program should take between 12 and 14 hours to complete and can be done according to your own schedule using any PC or Apple computer or tablet,” Peters continued. “After completing the self-study, you will still need to take the in-person, hands on training which will be offered by the Northern Sonoma County CERT program.”

According to Peters, all in-person training will be performed with masks, eye goggles, nitrile gloves and any other needed personal protective equipment, but it won’t be socially distanced due to trainees needing to learn search and rescue extraction and CPR.

“Once we are permitted to do so — perhaps next fall — we will, if permitted, have a large scale disaster simulation event which could include 100-plus people, but only if the health officials say it is safe to do so,” Peters said.

Due to the pandemic, about 90% of CERT’s training up until this point have been canceled, Peters said when asked about how disaster preparedness efforts have been impacted by virus-related protocols.

Once someone becomes a CERT volunteer, they’re eligible to participate in more advanced training that involves emergency shelter management, prescribed burn management, animal rescue as well as other tasks.

“When you have completed your self-study program you must notify me that you are ready for in-person training and I will schedule you for the next available class and will order your CERT gear for you,” Peters wrote in an announcement about CERT training. “The self-study program is free. The in-person training is also free but requires the use of the CERT gear which has a cost of $75 per person. We provide the gear free to anyone who cannot afford it and to any 16-18 year old ‘Teen CERTs’ who agree to complete the training. We provide the gear at a discounted cost of $50 to any COPE volunteers, LISTOS trainees or family members of first responders.”

Those interested in becoming a CERT volunteer can sign up to do so by emailing Peters at gpeters@showa-farm.com.

[SIDEBAR] What do CERT volunteers do?

According to Program Manager Geoff Peters, CERT volunteers can do a variety of things depending on training level. These include;

●    Assisting with first aid at Temporary Refuge Areas and evacuation centers

●    Search and rescue neighborhood screening

●    Minor fire suppression

●     Evacuation traffic direction

●    Firefighter rehabilitation (under the direction of an EMT)

●    Wildfire vegetation management public awareness programs

●    Putting up fire service compliant street address signs

●    Geo-mapping parcels for fire run maps

●    Emergency notification enrollment of citizens

●    Distribution of site-specific evacuation directions and maps

●    Driving water tenders

●    Assisting at the Emergency Operations Center

●    Staffing emergency shelters

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