Whole Community: Reentry Program

BEMA acts as advisor to mentor and other groups in emergency management and homeland security   

     -BEMA does not mentor face-to-face with student (K-12, college), members, or reentry program participants

     -Promote FEMA Emergency Management Institute (EMI) distant learning online classes for reentry program, using EMI online classes for basic satisfaction to attend CERT training

     -FEMA EMI classes provide continuing college education units (CEU) that can be converted to college credits

     -Online and CERT training promotes the ‘whole community’ approach to emergency management emphasized by  FEMA

     -Online training conducted during incarceration before time served, or parole

     -CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training, conducted by local emergency management agency

     -CERT training conducted during release under mentor, or parole officer supervision

TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012

How to Establish a CERT in Your Jurisdiction

How to Establish a CERT in Your Jurisdiction

By: Demetrius A. Kastros on June 05, 2012

“Have a kit, make a plan, stay informed.” 
All good advice, but what the national message l
acks is an emphasis on the need for every family
 to have solid emergency skills training. They can 
get that from a Community Emergency Response 
Team (CERT) training course.

CERT training teaches emergency first-aid, basic 

rescue techniques,  assessing a building to determine if it’s safe to enter, 
basic firefighting, disaster psychology, securing utilities, operating with a 
team and neighborhood search. CERT-trained citizens learn to work with 
other CERT members to form a team, go into their neighborhood after a 
disaster and “do the most good for the most people.”

The basic CERT curriculum is available to anyone. Among the many things 
the federal government does well is provide a well designed, easy-to-access
curriculum for instructing CERT classes in your community. Lesson plans, 
video clips and PowerPoint slides are all available for easy download at 
no charge on the Citizen Corps website.

Developing an effective CERT program in a community involves more than 

simply instructing classes. The initial curriculum takes about 25 to 30 hours 
and is merely the foundation upon which a CERT Community must be built. 
Student enthusiasm begins with making the class worth a participant’s time. 
Minimize classroom lectures — CERT is about learning hands-on emergency 

The Team Concept

Because CERT is a team concept, we here in Monterey, Calif., initially form 

the students into five-member teams. The teams select their own team leaders 
for each skill practice, such as splinting and bandaging, and rotate the leader 
position for each segment. Everyone takes turns  being a victim and rescuer. 
A critical disaster function and role for CERT members is to assemble, assess 
their neighborhood and proceed as a team to perform safe actions without any 
help or initial support from traditional first responders, such as the fire department. 
Beginning their basic training with a sense of team operations greatly supports 
this primary function.

CERT members should be taught to use materials that they find in an average 

home. Clean linens, diapers, sanitary napkins and a host of other household 
items make excellent dressings and bandages for wounds. Cardboard boxes 
can be quickly fashioned into a splint. Blankets can be an effective stretcher 
to move the injured. Materials in a backyard fence, such as pieces of lumber,
 make good prying tools to remove debris from a trapped person. A roll of duct 
tape has countless uses including securing a splint or reinforcing cracked windows.

CERT skills are essential for family members to learn even if they never 

venture out into their neighborhood to help others.

Once your solid foundation of ongoing basic training is established, you now 

can build on this foundation to establish your CERT Community. Quarterly 
drills are very effective in maintaining member skills, enthusiasm and participation. 
Make those drills realistic and minimize classroom instruction. Monthly email 
newsletters, Facebook pages and a website are effective, low-cost methods for 
disseminating new information and maintaining contact. Setting up a website should
 be neither complicated nor expensive. There’s usually someone in your membership 
who has the skills to set these things up for your program. In addition, most 
IT departments in a city or county can provide this setup service.
The Monterey CERT is organized into nine zones or team areas throughout 
the community. Each zone has a storage container that is solidly anchored 
to a foundation in the ground. These are somewhat similar in size to a larger 
portable on-demand metal storage container.  Basic inventories include: first-aid 
supplies, hand tools, pry bars, fire extinguishers, body bags,  tarps, generators, 
stretcher boards (backboards), ropes, yellow isolation tape, water, portable 
sanitary facilities and a host of other equipment. These storage caches 
provide an excellent supplement to teams working on extended incidents, 
examples of which, such as tornadoes in the Midwest, seem to pepper 
the nightly news.

Each zone has team members from the surrounding neighborhoods. 
Teams select their own leaders and those leaders have keys to access 
the storage containers, thus enhancing the independent nature of CERT. 
The containers also typically serve as the neighborhood staging 
area for team members during an emergency. 

Under the city disaster plan, one critical role for Monterey CERT 
members is initial damage assessment reports immediately after an 
emergency occurs. These reports are made directly from the CERT zones 
to the city EOC. Since CERT teams live in the neighborhoods, we are 
ideally suited to this reporting role. Critical to this function is a VHF 
radio system consisting of handheld radios that are supported by three 
base stations. The radio system is just now being updated to comply with 
FCC narrowband requirements. This radio system is a simplex or line of 
sight system that does not rely on automatic repeaters to boost signals, 
such as are common to police and fire departments’ radio systems. 
Because the handheld radios are battery operated, they remain unaffected 
by the common maladies of a disaster such as power outages and 
cellphone interruptions. These handheld radios operate with a proprietary 
battery or AA battery packs. All three CERT base station radios, one of 
which is in the EOC, are located in buildings with back-up generators. 
The base radios are all staffed by CERT members to provide continuity 
with teams in the field.

This radio system allows for more than damage assessment reports. It 

enables the EOC to remain in direct contact with the various neighborhoods 
across town, getting constant updates on conditions. The radios also allow
 efficient tracking of CERT members operating in an area, and  they enable 
teams in the field to instantly request professional assistance, such as from the local 
fire department, for a situation beyond the role of the CERT. Always remember 
at every phase of CERT training that an important component of your program 
must be safety awareness and instructing members about what they can
attempt to do and more importantly, what their limits should be. 

If cellphone systems remain operational after an emergency, an effective 

method for the EOC to assess community conditions is to establish a 
simple email address to which CERT members in the field can send pictures 
of damaged buildings from their cellphones and mobile devices.

CERT Radio System

Another essential component of your CERT Community is the ability to 

contact your team members rapidly, giving them instructions on what 
the needs are following an occurrence. Not all disasters or community 
emergencies are as obvious as an earthquake, tornado or 
hurricane. Monterey CERT teams were activated during the 
March 2011 tsunami alert following the Japan earthquake. 
In this instance, after activating the EOC, city officials decided it would be 
prudent to post personnel in safe areas to warn citizens to remain 
clear of the beaches. 

Monterey uses a commercially available service, called E-Sponder, 
to mass call city personnel. E-Sponder is an Internet-based system 
that allows anyone with access codes to send a message 
from an Internet capable computer. The sender accesses the service, 
types a message on the screen similar to an email and then sends that 
message to a predesignated group stored in the system. The typed message 
is instantly voice digitized and received by the designated person in 
the form of a recorded voice message. The messages can be sent to 
land lines or cellphones, and the recipients simultaneously receive the 
same message in text and email format. The system 
allows for storing multiple sub-groups such as EOC personnel, fire 
department members, CERT members, etc. The sender can transmit an 
all-call message or select one or more sub-groups for notification. 
Hundreds of personnel can be contacted through the calling system at 
the same time.

During the West Coast Tsunami alert, Monterey CERT team members 
were directed to a single staging area using E-Sponder. At 5 a.m. that 
morning within 30 minutes we fielded a group larger than twice the size 
of the on-duty fire department. Teams were then organized, given a radio and 
sent to seven locations above the shorelines. Team members gave tsunami 
warnings to dozens of unknowing people who were approaching the beaches. 
Using the CERT radio system, close contact  was maintained with the teams
in the field. Members were kept advised of the estimated arrival time of the 
tidal surge. The Monterey Marina rose three feet at the anticipated time, but there 
was no significant damage. Santa Cruz, Calif., is across the bay, about 
15 miles straight line from Monterey. A visible tsunami hit the small Santa Cruz 
harbor, causing $25 million in damage to moorings and boats. 
This from an earthquake that occurred 5,000 miles away!

Our CERT team members know that if all forms of communication

fail during a disaster, they presume that a call-out of CERT members 
occurred and report to their neighborhood staging area to assemble 
as a team. CERT members are taught to care for their family and immediate 
neighbors first and then report to staging. Members are discouraged 
from conducting independent actions beyond their immediate family 
and neighbors.

Monterey CERT instruction is done entirely by volunteers. We receive 

minimal funding from the city for trademark helmets and vests. Some 
money is also provided for training tools and equipment. There is a 
separate 501(c) nonprofit group that obtains charitable donations that 
can be transferred to the program.

Having a CERT Community in your jurisdiction is an essential element 

of any disaster plan.

Demetrius A. Kastros is a retired, career member of the 

California Fire Service. He is the lead instructor for the 
Monterey, Calif., CERT program and lives in that city. 
He can be reached atdemekastros@msn.com.

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