Joining the LAFD CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is one of the best ways you can learn how to stay safe during and after a disaster. Southern California is prone to earthquakes, fires, and flooding, so there is no better time than now to get up to speed on emergency preparedness. Watch as the experts from our LAFD’s elite disaster preparedness team show you what it takes.
Los Angeles and Southern California: Disaster Country
According to the LAFD, there are more than four million people in the city of Los Angeles every day, including residents and visitors. The population and city’s widespread and varied geography is likely to create high-risk situations in the event of a major disaster. Learning what to do though programs like the LAFD CERT is essential since the number of people in the area far exceeds the number of first responders.
What does it take to join CERT?
“There’s a couple of ways that I explain to people…you can take this class for the knowledge and the experience, and the know how to take care of your family, your neighbors, your community in time of disasters,” says LAFD Firefighter/CERT Instructor, Randy Opperman.
Do I have to be in any particular shape to join LAFD CERT, like going to the fire academy?
“No,” says LAFD Captain II and Task Force Commander Rico Gross. “However, we’d like you to have the ability to at least facilitate your own health and well-being. Even if someone is unable to care for others directly, lift them up or carry large objects, we’d still want them to have the training in the awareness of what is in their environment to better protect themselves. So really anyone can take the class.”
LAFD Captain I and CERT Program Manager, Dustin Gates seconds that motion, “To get on the CERT team, the basic CERT team all you have to do is be an abled bodied person, who can attend the courses, in good health.”
What is taught in the LAFD CERT classes?
“Over seven weeks we start with the basics of home safety. We’ll transition into a medical component, we can teach them to care for themselves, their family, and others after a disaster. Splinting, bandaging. And just assessing a person,” says LAFD Captain I-CERT program manager Dustin Gates.
“We teach them about shutting off utilities at their home or a gas meter or their water meter or even shutting off the power to their home. We can teach people after a major disaster, if there’s a downed powerline, safety around down power lines and what to look out for.”
“We like to tell people just how to be safe after an emergency. And, also before the emergencies. We teach people about smoke detectors in their home, how to check those batteries, carbon dioxide detectors. What to look for in cases of a gas leak in your home. So, we like to prepare people for anything they can encounter in their home or community where they live.”
Everybody can make a difference: Disaster safe
“The lesson from CERT class, is everybody can make a difference,” When it comes to learning how to stay safe in a disaster,” Dustin says.
“Honestly, we want everybody in the city of Los Angeles, and nationwide to take the LAFD CERT class because it teaches you basic preparedness. In can teach you how to work in a team, after a major disaster, come together in the community and survive. Because the fact is, there are not enough emergency service workers, throughout the county to help everybody. We have to rely on our citizens who are trained in CERT to really step it up and help us assess the damage and take care of themselves.”
CERT Call-Out Team: Above and Beyond
“Within the CERT program we have another managed portion, of our CERT program called the Call-Out Team,” says Andrew Huang who is a LAFD firefighter and works with the CERT.
“We have about 100-110 volunteers who go through additional training. And they assist us on a major emergency. Brush fires, structure fire or large-scale events, just assist the fire department with logistics, they assist with the hydration of firefighters, large structure fires, they can help at a base camp at a brush fire, they help with set up and tear down of large events that the fire department hosts.”
Dustin says the Call-Out Team members are essential to the team. “The Call-Out Team, they are invaluable to me, and the fire department beyond words! When I work out in the field around other firefighters, they’re amazed at the time and dedication our volunteers put in the fire department, and the program. These are people who have regular jobs, they have families, they need to tend to, but they will drop everything, the minute I call them to come help us in any way the can. There are many incidents that would not go as smoothly as they go without the Call -Out Team being there. They are a huge asset to our fire department.”
When it comes to working with CERT volunteers, Rico says, “It’s humbling…to know that I have close to 200 volunteers, that are donating their time to go and support our fire companies. To
go and support injured and sick, in a large incident, be there, until fire companies arrive, it’s humbling. I really give most of my day, if I can to those volunteers, they’re instrumental in our success.”
Andrew says at the end of the day we must make sure everyone will learn how to stay safe in a disaster. “The most important things are to be prepared…make sure you’re safe, make sure your partner is safe, and everyone around you is safe.”
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By Charles Stewart