Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training

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The CERT training for community groups is usually delivered in 2 1/2 hour sessions, one evening a week over a 7 week period. The training consists of the following:

  • Session I, DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Addresses hazards to which people are vulnerable in their community. Materials cover actions that participants and their families take before, during, and after a disaster. As the session progresses, the instructor begins to explore an expanded response role for civilians in that they should begin to consider themselves disaster workers. Since they will want to help their family members and neighbors, this training can help them operate in a safe and appropriate manner. The CERT concept and organization are discussed as well as applicable laws governing volunteers in that jurisdiction.
  • Session II, DISASTER FIRE SUPPRESSION: Briefly covers fire chemistry, hazardous materials, fire hazards, and fire suppression strategies. However, the thrust of this session is the safe use of fire extinguishers, sizing up the situation, controlling utilities, and extinguishing a small fire.
  • Session III, DISASTER MEDICAL OPERATIONS PART I: Participants practice diagnosing and treating airway obstruction, bleeding, and shock by using simple triage and rapid treatment techniques.
  • Session IV, DISASTER MEDICAL OPERATIONS, PART II: Covers evaluating patients by doing a head to toe assessment, establishing a medical treatment area, performing basic first aid, and practicing in a safe and sanitary manner.
  • Session V, LIGHT SEARCH AND RESCUE OPERATIONS: Participants learn about search and rescue planning, size-up, search techniques, rescue techniques, and most important, rescuer safety.
  • Session VI, DISASTER PSYCHOLOGY AND TEAM ORGANIZATION: Covers signs and symptoms that might be experienced by the disaster victim and worker. It addresses CERT organization and management principles and the need for documentation.
  • Session VII, COURSE REVIEW AND DISASTER SIMULATION: Participants review their answers from a take home examination. Finally, they practice the skills that they have learned during the previous six sessions in disaster activity.

During each session participants are required to bring safety equipment (gloves, goggles, mask) and disaster supplies (bandages, flashlight, dressings) which will be used during the session. By doing this for each session, participants are building a disaster response kit of items that they will need during a disaster.

The CERT program goes back to the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985 and the Whittier Narrows Earthquake in 1987. It is based on two realizations: 1) that emergency services, communications, and transportation will be overwhelmed by a major disaster, and 2) that local, probably untrained, citizens will attempt to respond and perform rescue operations. Unfortunately, untrained responders often endanger themselves and others. The need for community-wide emergency response training was recognized and formalized. Today, CERT is organized under Citizen Corps (along with VIPS, the Volunteers In Police Service Program, which we also participate in). CERT volunteers are trained to provide local emergency response within their community during a disaster and to organize other local, possibly untrained, volunteers to work effectively. As such, the mission of CERT is highly complementary to that of the LCSA.

LCSA volunteers who undergo the CERT training will retain the CERT equipment and training materials and will be full members of the Lawrence County CERT program. LCSA volunteers have as their first priority serving the needs of the Lawrence County Sheriff, however, CERT membership provides the option of responding to one organization if the other is not activated or the volunteer's services are not currently needed by the other. Sharing the same basic training also makes it easier for LCSA and CERT volunteers to work side-by-side in the field.

The CERT training materials are available online through the CERT Website. IS-317, an online introductory course, is also available. IS-317 is not required to take the hands-on CERT course but some people may find it useful as an introduction to what CERT does and how it works.