The Encinitas Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program

To prepare residents for a catastrophic disaster, the Encinitas Fire Department started a CERT program in 2004. This program teaches citizens basic emergency skills, and trains them to respond effectively to disasters as a part of a team. The program was initially created by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1986, and has now been established in over 1100 communities nationwide.

People who participate in CERT training will have a better understanding of potential disaster threats to their home, workplace and community.  If a disaster occurs that overwhelms the response capabilities of local emergency services, trained CERT members can apply their training to give critical support to family, neighbors and co-workers until professional help arrives.

The program includes special training for basic fire suppression and medical care. Volunteers also learn how to size-up search and rescue situations, such as a collapsed building, for example, to determine whether it is safe to go in. The classes are taught by Encinitas firefighters or by CERT volunteers certified to teach some of the course modules.

At the end of the course, the students respond to a mock emergency to give them a chance to put their skills to good use. Once the training is successfully completed, volunteers receive a certificate at a special City Council ceremony, a designation as Disaster Service Worker and a CERT hardhat, vest, gloves and other safety and emergency response equipment worth about $50 per volunteer.

The course modules are:

  • Disaster Preparedness
  • Fire Safety
  • Disaster Medical Operations (Assessing and Treating Injuries)
  • Light Search and Rescue
  • Team Organization
  • Disaster Psychology
  • Terrorism and CERT
  • Wildfire Preparedness and Response
  • Final Exercise

Who can participate and become a CERT volunteer? The program is open to those who live or work within the city of Encinitas and are at least 18 years of age.

Why Should You Become a Member of
Encinitas’ Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)?

Because… well, let’s put it this way: try to picture this…

  • A 7.5 earthquake strikes the San Diego region, hitting North County particularly hard. A number of dwellings have collapsed, killing many people and trapping many more, some severely hurt. Emergency Services rush to the scene of the first calls they receive and try to help as fast as they can. But there are serious obstacles on their path: segments of highways have become impassable and many roads have suffered significant damage. As a result, traffic is at a standstill almost everywhere. Most cell phone relay towers have crashed, rendering cell phones useless. Land lines have suffered damage as well, making phone calls impossible. In addition, gas leaks have started fires in dozens of houses and apartment complexes and need to be extinguished quickly lest they extend to entire city blocks or trigger a replay of the San Diego fires of 2003 and 2007. Firefighters and EMS are overwhelmed. Some hospitals have suffered destruction and disruption, too.
  • Where will you be when this happens (and it will happen, all geologists agree on that)?
  • Will you be at home with your loved ones, or will you be at work, and therefore cut off from them and not able to reconnect, maybe for days? What will you do? What should you do? Will you know? Are you counting on your neighbors or co-workers to tell you what to do in such a situation? Do you have an emergency backpack in your car? If you’re away from home, you may have to make it back on foot. What takes 45minutes over the highway today may take a day walking the same distance. Do you have enough food and water to make the trip? Do you have a first-aid kit? You will probably encounter people who will need your help. Will you be able to do so or will you have to ignore their pleas for assistance? Wherever you find yourself when the earthquake strikes, there is a very good chance that many neighborhoods will be on their own during the early stages following a catastrophic disaster of this magnitude.

Such disasters in the recent past have shown that most people, when they are not hurt themselves, want to volunteer and help others. But without proper training, they can expose themselves to potential injury and even death. To take just one example, do you know how to recognize the danger of downed power lines? Basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills improves the ability of citizens to survive and take care of others less fortunate until professional responders arrive.