The Coast News Group
CERT volunteers practice searching a smoke-filled building looking for survivors, noting obstacles along the way and cribbing to lift a heavy object lying on a victim in March 2017. File photo by Steve Puterski

New year, new CERT class

CARLSBAD — For the past 10 years, the city has been seeking out good Samaritans.

On Jan. 8, dozens will gather at 6:30 p.m. at the Carlsbad Safety Training Center, 5750 Orion St., in hopes of being selected for the 2018 Certified Emergency Response Team Academy.

The academy provides volunteers, who must be Carlsbad residents, with more than 24 hours of training in fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue and basic CPR, to name a few areas.

The informational session, meanwhile, is mandatory. Those selected must pass a background check and medical evaluation with a doctor’s signature.

Training classes run three hours, from 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., for 10 weeks starting Feb. 12 and the class is limited to 25 people. Participants must be 18 or older and must attend the informational session.

Carlsbad Emergency Preparedness Manager David Harrison, the Carlsbad Fire Department and Escondido Emergency Preparedness Manager Jeff Murdock lead the training.

“Carlsbad is a generally safe city, but we aren’t immune to these hazards that are common throughout the state,” Harrison said. “We’ve seen a number of times over the past 10 years where Carlsbad has either been directly impacted or on the periphery of these wild land fires.”

CERT members provide logistical support to city officials during emergencies.

For example, the Carlsbad CERT was activated for just the second time ever during the recent Lilac fire. Murdock said many of those activated handled phone calls, took notes and entered data as city staff was too busy with managing fire support and its department to handle those tasks.

In addition, CERT members staffed the evacuation shelter at Stagecoach Community Park, where at least 250 evacuees spent two nights as firefighters battled the blaze.

CERT was also activated during the 2014 Poinsettia fire, Harrison said. The volunteers played an important role in the response, performing a variety of support activities in the city’s Emergency Operations Center and at temporary evacuation points and shelters during the Lilac fire, he said. 

“It was providing support for those directly impacted by the fire,” Harrison added. “We got really wonderful feedback from city staff and evacuees. It came in the form of letters and emails. There’s an important role for Carlsbad residents to participate. It’s a neighbor helping neighbor role.”

The program is modeled after the national CERT program created through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Citizens Core Program.

Carlsbad’s CERT program has a budget of about $10,000 and is supplemented by grants, including a San Diego Gas & Electric Safer grant, Harrison said last year.

He said volunteers receive training in numerous fields, with instruction coming from a combination of class and fieldwork.

Harrison, firefighters, critical incident management specialists and crisis psychologists conduct the training, with a mix of in-house instructors and outside professionals.

After completing the academy, bi-monthly meetings are held for refresher training for additional skills such as computer software, Harrison said.

The three main disciplines for volunteers are first aid, basic fire suppression and light search and rescue, Harrison said. CERT members will also be introduced to disaster psychology, sheltering and the city’s EOC.

Fieldwork is held at the Safety Training Center using some of the tools wielded by the fire department, although Harrison noted CERT members are not on the same level as professional firefighters.

Those interested in joining CERT must apply through and select Disaster Preparedness & Response — City of Carlsbad.

For more information, email [email protected] or call Kerry Mixie at (760) 434-2908.