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Ready for anything: CERT trainees practice disaster preparedness

Elizabeth Medora ~ Staff~ 4/28/2015

NORTH VALLEY – “Uniting communities – preparing the nation” is the motto of the Daisy Mountain Fire Department Citizen Corps. The Community Emergency Response Team is an embodiment of the endeavor to be prepared as a community for any kind of disaster. 

DMFD Citizen Corps Program Manager Paul Schickel co-teaches Daisy Mountain Fire Department Community Emergency Response Team training with DMFD Battalion Chief Dave Jensen. CERT training in the community began 11 years ago. Currently, one training session is held per year; however, in the past two sessions have been held per year. Schickel is aiming to return to conducting two training sessions each year, if the funding can be found. Grant funds provide most of the capital for CERT equipment, including a truck and fully-outfitted trailer with disaster-relief gear.

Schickel said in a training class on April 23 that the premise of CERT training is “disaster preparedness.” CERT classes define a disaster as: “more things going on than there are rescuers.” The CERT team helps fill in the gaps in an emergency, providing needed assistance to first responders.

Battalion Chief Dave Nielson described the background of CERT training across the country.

“It was started from disasters like hurricanes and spurred on by 9/11,” Nielson said. He noted that the purpose of CERT training is to help citizens be able to care for themselves and their families for 72 hours after a disaster. This assists emergency workers and supports relief efforts. Volunteers who want to provide additional aid can continue training and become deployable CERT members who assist the fire department and provide disaster-relief services.

The Daisy Mountain Fire CERT has been deployed on wildfires around the state, assisting aid workers and helping residents plan for potential evacuations. CERT members have assisted local residents during floods, including the severe flooding in New River last August.

The local CERT also assists the Daisy Mountain Fire Department by providing support on local large-scale events, such as the tree lighting at the Outlets at Anthem and Anthem Days. CERT members provide non-emergency coverage, initial first aid, and transport from the event area to the fire truck for injured citizens.

The latest CERT trainees started classes two months ago. They faced their final test on April 23, the last session of the 8-week training. They banded together for a drill, testing their preparedness skills in the scenario of a severe monsoon storm. The scenario included multiple different incidents caused by the flood; the CERT volunteers were challenged to use their skills to investigate incidents and provide rescue services as needed.

Schickel designated groups of trainees, creating multiple teams and one Command group. The teams were sent to various areas of the Daisy Mountain Fire Department #141 station, dealing with purported traffic blockages, downed power lines, and damaged buildings, including one with a collapsed wall.

The collapsed wall scenario incorporated two victims caught beneath the wall. Two CPR mannequins under a wall set the scene. This wall is no ordinary piece of construction. Divided into four quadrants, the wall cannot be lifted straight up – it folds in and collapses. It must be supported in multiple locations in order to be lifted.

Deployable CERT member David Schwartz noted that the wall was built especially for CERT training purposes. Having been through this training himself, he jokingly referred to the wall as “diabolical,” as it is extremely challenging to lift.

Lifting the training wall off the CPR mannequins took multiple team members, carts full of wood blocks in specific formations, and time and effort. Throughout the drill, Schickel worked with the Command team and Jensen supervised the wall collapse team. The teams worked together, keeping in contact with the Command team, hauling needed supplies, and brainstorming how best to deal with the crisis scenario. When team members finally pulled the CPR mannequins out from under the training wall, a cheer rose from the rest of the teams.

After the drill, debriefing took place back in the training room. Trainees discussed their impressions, thoughts, and ideas, noting how real the scenario had felt. One volunteer spoke of his first reaction upon hearing an incident scenario address – even knowing it was a drill, he immediately thought of his family, who lives in that area. The Command team talked about organization and planning, noting what worked and what hadn’t.

As the class ended, each participant received their graded evaluations and certificates of achievement. Battalion Chief Nielson recognized Schickel and Jensen for their longtime efforts in CERT training and their grant-writing work, eliciting cheers from their students. Trainees will now be certified for life but are welcome to take a refresher course if they desire. Further training to be deployable CERT team members is available, as well.

Further community training will be available in May. A CPR class will be held on May 14, and a first aid class will be held May 21. Sign up for these classes and learn more about community preparedness training at www.dmfdcc.org. For more information on CERT training, email Paul Schickel at Paul.Schickel@DMFD.org.