26 January 2013

CERT Overview

     Today, I want to give a better description of my CERT class and encourage everyone to find one near you and participate. The beauty of the program is that it's for everyone. You don't have to be an EMT or secret agent or superhero. You just have to be there. The program helps you learn what to do at your house, then your neighborhood, then the community. It turns out that I am an EMT/secret agent/superhero, but I still learned a lot and had a great experience.
     So, the class usually takes about six or seven weeks to complete. It's typically one night a week. Sometimes they do a couple Saturdays and you get through a lot faster. It all depends on what the group wants and when the instructor is available. Ours was six weeks and we had a final practical scenario on a Saturday.
     ...So there I was. I was greeted by a nice lady named Helen who already knew my name; not because I'm famous or anything, but because she was in charge of attendance ...and I was late(don't worry, they don't mark you down for being tardy). It was mostly a room full of old ladies. They were mostly church folk who were their congregations' emergency preparedness gurus. I wasn't the youngest in the class, though. There was a family on the back row that was doing the class for their weekly family night. They had four kids ranging from about 11 to 16. So we started class.

CERT Basics and Disaster Preparedness
     The first real topic is an overview of the basics, which include an overview of CERT and family and workplace preparedness. You learn what CERT does and what they don't do, the basics of assembling a disaster supply kit and a disaster plan, and when it is good to stay in place or evacuate. You'll also learn about some high-risk hazards, such as terrorism. Now, these classes don't always go in order, and you don't always cover all of the material, but this is the outline the book gives, so you can bet it will be different.

Fire Safety
      This was a fun one. You learn the simple stuff like turning off utilities(gas, electrics, and water) and you learn the not quite so simple stuff like hazardous material identification. You don't go too in-depth on anything, so don't worry. Basically, when it come to Haz-Mat, all you really have to remember is to get uphill and upwind. You learn how to decide whether or not you can handle the fire, and if you can, how to do it. We played with fire extinguishers and it was pretty awesome. I teamed up with the 11 year old, Logan, and he did pretty great. It's never too early or too late to learn something that may save your life.

Disaster Medical Operations  
     Now we get to the good stuff. I think this is the stuff you're most likely to use in real life...unless you catch your kitchen on fire, but you're more likely to cut your hand or something, or be around someone who does. Anyway, this section goes over major life threats, opening a patient's airway, treating for shock, and determining patient priority. You learn how to do a patient assessment and treat wounds. It's good stuff. If you were a Boy Scout, some of this is just a review, but you really can never have to much practice on those sorts of things. We bandaged each other up and practiced carrying patients and all that good stuff.

Light Search and Rescue
     This one is particularly helpful in earthquakes, but it comes in handy if you're just searching, even if the building isn't falling apart. You learn how to systematically search a building and mark areas you've searched. You learn how to do cribbing, which is used to safely lift heavy objects like this:

     We never actually put someone under anything, but we did lift a trailer, and no one died.

CERT Organization
     This is when you learn the Incident Command System. When you show up to help, you have a place to fit in, and you can know what is going on no matter who is in charge of the scene. If you're the only person around, you're in charge. If there's a lot of CERT people, you may have different responsibilities within the group.

Final Scenario
     So we all went to a church building which we used for our scenario. We had some people scattered over the whole place pretending to be victims. We put everything we learned into practiced. We had to inspect the building, turn off utilities, do search and rescue, and treat casualties. It was a pretty great learning experience. We were just a bunch of normal people...just like if something happened in real life. You don't get to choose who you work with, but you do get to choose how you work with them.

      The best thing about this program is that it really works from the bottom up. Sure, it's a  government program, but the result is empowered individuals. When something happens, participants are better equipped to take care of themselves, their family, neighbors, and community, and relieve some of the burden placed on emergency workers responding to 9-1-1 calls.
     .....sometimes you can't call 9-1-1. You can't always call for backup.

     ...and you can't always take the day off.

     Being self-sufficient is key to preparedness. If you can handle something on your own, then it's not really an emergency, is it? For almost everything that could be an emergency, there is something that can be done beforehand.

     ...and sometimes all it takes is a band-aid. In an emergency, your options are limited, you can't always just run to the store to pick up what you need. You've got to use what you already have and know, and if you need something more or you want to learn something new, then now is the time for it. When something happens, we need people who are willing and who at least kind of know what they're doing, so if you're willing, figure out what to do. It doesn't have to be CERT, but I think it's a great program, just find something you can do. With CERT, though, you get this nifty backpack with a helmet and vest. What more could you ever want from life?

Here's the website for CERT.  https://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/
It may help answer some questions or get you in contact with the right people. If you live near me, I can get you the information for the local guy in charge.  


  1. That is a pretty neat backpack vest set.

  2. We're going to have to change your initials so your nieces and nephews will recognize you. How about USS (Uncle Super Spud)! Hey, I like it! Great job on the blog, Mister!

  3. I took a CERT class about a year ago and learned a lot of great stuff. The tricky part for me is reviewing so I can remember it in case of an emergency. Even if I forget a lot of it, I learned so much that something is bound to come in handy. :) We were lucky to have the 2 long Saturdays option in our area.