Monday, November 30, 2015 • 07:15

VC Community Emergency Response Team practice emergency skills

May 21, 2014
Last month, the Valley Center Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members practiced "cribbing," or how to remove hazards and stabilize an environment under the guidance of firefighter paramedics. Seven of Valley Center's CERT members participated in the weekend exercise.

An estimated 150 trained, certified volunteers tested their skills in a countywide exercise that took place in Sweetwater Village, a vacant shopping center in Spring Valley.

After a devastating earthquake, first responders may be tied up with complicated rescues and emergency operations. That's when a member of CERT could step in with light rescue, triage, and first aid skills.

The weekend exercise consisted of volunteers playing the roles of victims caught in a building during a significant earthquake. Some victims could be partly trapped under or blocked by debris or injured and unable to get out on their own.

"We put together a countywide drill for all the folks who have gone through the certified training," said Hugo Bermudez, Chula Vista Fire Department CERT Program Manager. "The exercise gave them a crash course on specific skills and then followed up with real-life scenario to demonstrate those skills."

In the morning, teams rotated through five stations where they learned or reviewed skills in medical aid and hazard removal in an emergency environment, search and rescue, and team management. The 35-minute training stations were taught by uniformed fire department experts in various fields.

"I want them to learn something they haven't learned before," said Bermudez. "We are trying to help volunteers exercise the skills they need to practice and retain."

Countywide exercises serve as an opportunity to train and work together with CERT teams from other parts of the county. Two countywide exercises are planned every year. Teams are randomly mixed to help members work with other trained CERT members.

San Diego County has 32 CERT programs with more than 4,000 volunteers. Locally, Jim Courter is the CERT Coordinator for the Valley Center Fire Protection District.

The CERT program is an all-hazard, all-risk training designed to help others protect themselves, their families, neighbors, and neighborhood in an emergency situation. Although local government prepares for everyday emergencies, during a disaster the number and scope of incidents can overwhelm conventional emergency services.

CERT is a realistic approach to disaster and emergency situations where the actions of citizens can make a difference. One goal of the CERT program is to help people respond to others in need effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.

In the CERT training, citizens learn to put out small fires and manage utilities, search for and rescue victims safely, and how to open airways, control bleeding, treat for shock, and provide medical aid. They also learn to organize themselves and volunteers to be effective and collect disaster intelligence to support first response efforts.

To find out more about the program or to join the Valley Center CERT, contact George Lucia at (760) 751-7600 or visit

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