After a series of earthquakes in the United States and Mexico during the ’80s that left hundreds dead, injured and without emergency services, the Los Angeles City Fire Department saw the potential to save many lives by implementing a Community Emergency Response Team. By 1994, FEMA began promoting nationwide use of the model set forth by Los Angeles in training civilian emergency work force teams.Here in San Marcos almost a third of the Fire Department’s job is water rescue. Flooding is the most likely disaster where the community would be able to help emergency services. When emergency response teams are overwhelmed, curious citizens can only endanger themselves and others during a disaster by trying to help without training.
Fire Marshall Ken Bell said that for “people who want to get involved in that sort of excitement, we encourage them to join the CERT team and become part of the program.”
“We’re always looking for people to invest in this program. We train them not just on emergency procedures but how to get in communication with us and where to report. We give them uniforms so they’re easily recognizable and identifiable. They get organized with the big picture instead of trying to do little things on their own. It’s the old civil defense methodology.”
According to Bell the team is comprised of “mostly retired folks or people who just want to do a little extra for their community. They meet once a month and then if something bad happens they get paged and they roll out to help the emergency services with whatever they can do. The beauty of it is that we know who they are and we have face-time with them, so we know what their capabilities are and we won’t commit them to something they may not be capable of doing. We get them right where they need to be.”
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By SARAH STEVENS