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May 8, 2007 > Personal Emergency Preparedness Program (PEP)

Personal Emergency Preparedness Program (PEP)

By Praveena Raman

After the 1994 Northridge Earthquake the Los Angeles Fire Department realized the need for trained community volunteers in the aftermath of a widespread disaster and conceived the Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) program. The 18 hour program, whose curriculum was directed by FEMA, became popular with Fire Departments and communities around the country. As years went by and the memory of the earthquake dimmed, fire departments in California saw a decrease in enrollment in the CERT program. Discussions followed as to whether it was important to train all community members in the 18 hour CERT program as volunteers of the fire department or to train just a few interested and dedicated volunteers. A shorter training program to educate all community members could be created to prepare the community at large for a disaster.

After the Tsunami in Asia and Katrina in the U.S., Fremont introduced the Personal Emergency Preparedness Program (PEP) to the community in an effort to prepare a large number of residents to take care of themselves. The three hour PEP training is based on the FEMA curriculum. Volunteers who are trained CERT instructors teach the skills and preparation steps that residents need to know to take care of themselves and their families in a disaster situation. The curriculum covers:

* earthquakes and disasters,
* home preparation
* utility shutoff,
* hazardous materials,
* fire extinguishers,
* smoke detectors
* Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Residents learn how to strap water heaters and big objects in their homes, how to minimize flying objects during an earthquake by securing small artifacts and placing things in a manner to reduce injuries. People are also trained to view the rooms in their homes and in places they visit with "Earthquake Eyes". They learn where their utility shut offs are located, how and when to shut them off, how to detect whether there is a gas leak or not. Instruction about fire extinguishers and their use is given along with information about hazardous materials, their safe placement and disposal. Installing and maintaining smoke detectors is also covered.

The concept of shelter-in-place is taught. Shelter-in-place means to stay indoors - in homes, schools, businesses, or public buildings - and includes additional precautions such as turning off air conditioners and ventilation systems and closing all windows and doors. It can be used when there is little time to react to an incident (often chemical or biological) when it would be more dangerous to be outside trying to evacuate than to stay indoors.

FEMA has a wonderful guide titled, "Are You Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness," which is a good companion piece to PEP training. This guide is available free from FEMA or can be downloaded from the FEMA website -
Copies are also available through the FEMA Publications warehouse ((800) 480-2520), FEMA publication H-34.

PEP training also enables disaster preparedness to be taken down to the block level. Apart from training sessions at the Fire Administration Building, instructors are available to visit Home Owners Associations, schools, Parent Teacher Associations (PTA), churches and other community gatherings.


Upcoming training at the Fire Administration building are given below. If you are interested in having PEP training for your neighborhood or community group please contact Chuck Guaraglia at (510) 792-3473 or send him an email at - ref PEP in subject line.

Scheduled PEP training at 3300 Capitol Avenue from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. -
5/15/07, 7/18/07, 9/18/07 and 11/14/07.
To sign up for these classes please visit or call 510-494-4244.
Cost: Free
High School Students: This class is applicable towards student community service hours for graduation.


The City of Newark also offers a PEP Program. For more information about PEP in Newark call (510) 790-7218 or email


Contact your local fire department to find out when and where PEP training is available.

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