Are You Ready?

If you’ve ever heard someone shout “Are you Ready?” from a table at our local street fairs, it was probably a volunteer from Alameda’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).  There are over 700 CERT graduates in Alameda and the number is growing.

When disaster strikes, CERT members support first responders, assist victims, and organize volunteers.  The fire department has been teaching these skills to the community since 2002.  Their free six-part 20-hour course covers fire safety/suppression, light search and rescue, team organization, and basic medical operations.  Once residents complete the course and are sworn in as California Disaster Service Workers, they will be covered by workers’ compensation if they’re officially activated.  CERT members keep up their Alameda CET affiliation by attending continuing education classes or volunteering at CERT events.

On March 27, the fire department held an “All Hands” meeting for CERT graduates at Alameda’s main library.  Over 100 people showed up to hear about new developments from CERT headquarters.

CERT teams are now divided by fire district rather than neighborhood, although existing neighborhood teams can remain.  Each district has a central meeting place where CERT volunteers will report in the event of an emergency.  In the meantime, CERT graduates are encouraged to meet in their districts and gather information about their members’ skills and the material resources (tools) available to them, and begin practicing their incident command procedures.  And, with the help of donations, volunteers in each district hope to purchase and stock a trailer with emergency supplies.  The Bay Farm fire district has already managed to do this.

A new website has been launched for graduates who wish to stay active, but anyone logging on will also learn about CERT.  The website includes fire district maps, incident command forms for documenting information after a crisis, a calendar of events for continuing education, news, training videos, photos, and a community forum on CERT-related issues.

As a supplement to CERT, Alameda County has provided our city with the “Map Your Neighborhood” Program to help build and strengthen disaster readiness among neighbors.  The program guide outlines nine steps to follow immediately after a disaster.  At the CERT meeting everyone was encouraged to host a meeting in his or her own neighborhood, using the guide for direction.  It’s a good way to meet your neighbors and start discussing how your neighborhood can be ready for a future disaster.  Any Alamedan can participate.

The CERT program relies on volunteers to keep it going.  Hopefully, local firefighters, not just residents, will volunteer their time to help guide each district in its formative stage.  Having a firefighter help teach, or at least be present, at every continuing education course would ensure professional input on every topic covered.

Be as ready as you can when disaster strikes.  If your neighbor invites you to attend a neighborhood meeting, go.  Or take the lead and host a meeting yourself.  The guides are available through the Alameda CERT office at the fire department.  The CERT course and other continuing education classes are available throughout the year.  Check the CERT website for details or email the CERT office at cert@alamedafire.org to get more information.

Originally published in Alameda Sun.

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