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January 6, 2004 > Disaster Preparedness in the Tri-City area: CERT in Union City, Newark and Fremo

Disaster Preparedness in the Tri-City area: CERT in Union City, Newark and Fremo

by Praveena Raman

The concept of a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program formed in Los Angeles after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. Professional emergency responders saw overwhelming support and help from eager untrained volunteers. When things returned to normal, they saw the potential for a great resource, with proper training, to aid Fire and Police Departments in the event of major disasters - CERT was born. Currently the CERT program exists in many countries worldwide. The first CERT conference took place in Los Angeles in November 2002 with volunteers and professional responders from many different states attending and exchanging program ideas and solutions to problems.

In 1997 Fremont/Union City (which were served by a joint Fire Department at that time) and Newark started the CERT program in the Tri-City Area. Subsequently Union City and Fremont separated in the year 2000 and the Union City CERT program was created in 2001. The program in the three cities is a partnership between the Fire Department and the community to prepare the residents for major disasters. All three cities are on the Hayward fault which is predicted to have a major earthquake in the next 30 years and by which the Tri-Cities would be severely impacted. Since 1997, more than 600 Newark residents have been trained and about 3000 residents have gone through the CERT training in Fremont of which 1400 are active CERT members.

Warm Spring's (Fremont) Cert District Coordinator Jay Jamali says, "Human nature does not like to dwell on the negative and tends to blur trauma and pain as a coping mechanism. It is also human nature to feel that disasters happen to other people and not to us. This makes it difficult to get people prepare themselves for emergencies." Preparation for Disasters can be at various levels and for some people, especially those who have grown up here just having a supply of water, food and clothing for three people is being prepared for the Big One.

Are they really prepared? Studies have shown that just having supplies is inadequate preparation and people even at the personal level need to prepare their homes and should learn how to detect a gas leak and where the shut off valves are. The program in the Tri-City area is designed to offer knowledge and training at the different levels and can serve people in their differing needs. Not everyone needs to go through the entire 20 hrs. of free training offered by the Fire Departments. However, studies also show that for citizens to be completely self-sufficient in a disaster there should be at least a few CERT trained people at the block level. The Tri-City area has a long way to go before this can be achieved.

Training:

CERT training is based on the curriculum that is mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) but is delivered a bit differently in Newark, Union City and Fremont. Newark and Union City align their training so that residents from these cities could attend the courses in either cities at their convenience or make up classes in either city. Besides coordinating the structure of the courses, they also offer it on different days twice a year once in the spring and the second time in the fall. Newark's CERT program is also open to Hayward residents and according to Cathi Sweeney "Union City too would ultimately like to coordinate their training and drills with not only the City of Newark but also with Hayward." Both cities offer a 20 hr. training program covering the following topics:

Class 1 EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
Emergency Response Team Concept
Personal, Family, and Workplace Preparation
Utilities and Hazardous Materials Overview
Fire Chemistry and Extinguishment
Class 2 DISASTER MEDICINE
Recognition and Treatment of Life Threatening Injuries
Triage of Patients
Care of Minor Injuries
Burns
Class 3 LIGHT SEARCH AND RESCUE
Earthquake Effects on Buildings
Search and Rescue Techniques
Lifting Heavy Objects
Class 4 TERRORISM and TEAM MANAGEMENT
Terrorism Weapons and Response
Terrorism Rescue and Recovery
Team Management and Response
Disaster Psychology
Class 5 HANDS-ON DISASTER SIMULATION
Hands-on Disaster Exercise
Critique
Recognition and Certificate Presentation
The dates for the next training session in Union City will be as follows:

Spring CERT class schedule:
Saturday mornings 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
#1 4/17/04: disaster awareness, home & workplace preparedness, and small fire control
#2 4/24/04: disaster medicine and triage
#3 5/1/04: earthquake effects on buildings, light search & rescue, cribbing
#4 5/8/04: hazardous materials, disaster psychology, and terrorism awareness
#5 5/15/04: Hands on exercise.
Pre-registration is required. Please call Fire Admin. at 675-5470 or email infoUCFD@ci.union-city.ca.us to sign up

The City of Newark which also follows the same course outline have not yet set the dates for the Spring Session but will be doing so shortly. Both Newark and Union City offers 5 four-hour courses in a particular session. In both these cities residents going through only class 1 and 2 would be prepared personally but not be completely CERT trained.

Until 2003 Fremont had a very strong CERT training program. It differed from Newark and Union City in that it offered a basic 18 hr. training program that covered the basic topics outlined above except for the Terrorism Weapons and Response or Weapons of Mass Destruction. Fremont offered this topic as a separate continuing education course for all CERT graduates. The other difference was the fact Fremont's CERT program was the only one that included Disaster Communications as part of Class 1 and Class 5 where residents learned the use of FRS radios and Ham Radios in emergencies. Fremont's CERT training was delivered in 6 three-hour courses.

In Fremont, recognizing a need to train and equip the majority of residents with personal preparation information a shorter one day three-hour course was developed covering materials from Class 1 and 2 of the regular program. The PEP (Personal Emergency Program) was started in 2003. Fremont also had other continuing education courses covering first aid and communications.

However, severe budget problems in Fremont, is having an effect on the CERT program. At present the whole program is being revamped and changed and hopefully the new training session will be announced in February 2004.

CERT training in both Union City and Fremont are available for high school students as a Service Learning Program. In Union City Logan High School students who are 16 years and older can go through the training whereas in Fremont, all high school students, 14 years and older can become CERT trained.

Upon completion of the 18-20 hr. program graduates get a helmet, vest and a badge to identify them as CERT volunteers.

More information regarding training in Union City, Newark and Fremont can be found at:
http://www.ci.union-city.ca.us/fire/CERT.html
http://www.ci.newark.ca.us/fd/fddcertcl.html
http://www.fremontcert.org

CERT Teams:

After graduating from the CERT program residents in the three Tri-Cities are grouped into teams. In Union City, CERT members are grouped into two teams East side of the Freeway and West side of the Freeway. In the spring of 2004 there will be some discussions to reorganize the CERT Teams into smaller groups perhaps according to the school boundaries.

In Newark, CERT Teams are organized into 9 districts following the school boundaries (with each district having a district team leader), namely:
Bunker, Kennedy, Milani, NMHS, Snow, Graham, Lincoln, Musick, Schilling.

In Fremont, CERT Teams are divided into 6 districts (each district having a district coordinator) namely:
Warm Springs, Mission San Jose, Niles, Irvington, Centerville and Ardenwood.

Since these districts were too big, team building at the neighborhood and block level started in 2002-2003. Due to budget cuts, this has been impacted and it is now left to the community to build a smaller team at the block level. There is a benefit to building smaller teams, making the block level stronger in their preparedness. Residents interested in this can contact their District Coordinator through the Fremont CERT website.

Drills:

All the three cities hold either one or two annual drills to help CERT graduates to practice and keep up their skills. Newark also offers recertification meetings for the different CERT groups.

The next drill at Newark will be on Saturday January 31st from 9:30 - 12:00 at Fire Station #3. For more information go to http://www.ci.newark.ca.us/pdfs/FIRE/CERTRefresh04.pdf

In Union City the following meetings and drills for CERT graduates have been scheduled:

Wednesday Feb. 4, 2004: 7:00 PM at Fire Station 1
Night search & rescue practice. Bring your flashlight!
Wednesday March 3, 2004: 7:00 PM at Fire Station 4
Look at how to break the two large districts into neighborhood sized groups for more efficient teams.

Saturday March 6, 2004 Science, Earth, and Health Festival at Logan High School
Volunteers needed for the CERT information booth. (We'll use the utility meter exhibits to show people how to shut them off, pass out information, and sign people up for Spring CERT classes.)

Wednesday March 31, 2004: 7:00 PM - Place TBD
CERT mixer. An informal get together. Plans to invite Newark CERT as well.

Wednesday May 5, 2004: 7:00 PM at Fire Station 4
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with CPR! Friends & Family CPR - no certificate issued.

In Fremont the next drill will be scheduled for the spring of 2004. Details to follow.

Supplies:
In Union City there are two containers filled with various emergency supplies such as medical supplies, shovels, vests, hats, tables, chairs and so on for the City to use in disasters. However these supplies will still be inadequate to meet all resident needs and people are encouraged to gather and store their own supplies.

In Fremont, each of the six CERT districts has a container at a Fire Station for emergency supplies. However these containers are inadequately stocked and will be of little use during a disaster.

Personal Preparedness:

In Union City a brochure made by the City giving details on how to personally and individually prepare for a disaster will be distributed to all the residents. This brochure was made possible because of the generous contribution of the Washington Hospital Healthcare System towards printing and postage for the brochures.

In Fremont brochures are available form the Fire Department to help residents prepare for a disaster. Additionally a tip sheet on disaster preparedness is available at http://www.fremont.gov/Community/CommunityInvolvement/default.htm

With the level of training available in the Tri-City Area residents should be able to prepare themselves adequately for the next major earthquake and not be caught unaware!

 
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