When disaster strikes many San Bernardino County residents will not only survive, but will be prepared to help others in their communities. These residents are part of the County Office of Emergency Services’ (OES) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. Knowing that in a catastrophic disaster, professional-career responders will likely be overwhelmed in the first hours and even days following a disaster; CERT-trained individuals learn important skills to safely care for themselves, their families and their community until professional-career responders arrive. The 20-hour FEMA curriculum provides hands-on training in personal preparedness, extinguishing small fires, triage, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, ICS (Incident Command System), disaster psychology and terrorism. The course culminates with a disaster simulation to afford participants the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned.
While thousands throughout San Bernardino County have received the free training, about a thousand are affiliated volunteers under County OES. These affiliated County OES CERT members are located in 14 unincorporated communities and are identified by the possession of a County OES identification card. Card-carrying County OES CERT members have cleared a DOJ and FBI background check, completed additional ICS training and are registered as Disaster Service Workers. These volunteers receive ongoing training and are organized under the supervision of a local volunteer who acts as the CERT Volunteer Coordinator and a local CERT Fire Liaison from County Fire or another partner agency. County OES CERT members attend regular meetings in their community and participate in training provided locally as well as Operational Area-wide training. San Bernardino County Firefighters have been an integral part of the success of the program and have provided outstanding initial and ongoing training.
As the County OES CERT program continues to grow look forward to seeing more “green helmets” (County OES CERT members) in appropriate support functions as well as the many preparedness outreach opportunities in the communities they serve.