Vista recruiting for community emergency response team

VISTA — How should you respond in the face of a disaster? That’s the question an upcoming program in North County will answer.

The Community Emergency Response Team program, which begins in April and is hosted by Palomar College, will cover eight different topics related to disaster preparedness over the course of a few weeks. Participants are then encouraged to join their city’s team to help during disasters.

Ned Vander Pol, a deputy chief for the Vista Fire Department, said the city has up to 300 CERT members with about 30 who are currently active. He said he hopes to increase the members to 50.

“It would help us expand the number of emergency responders we have and augment the system that’s already in place,” Vander Pol said. “Sometimes firefighters and paramedics can work up to 72 hours without a break. CERT members could help out.”

Vander Pol said the CERT members played a significant role in the 2011 power outage that blacked out neighborhoods in California, Tijuana and Arizona. That power outage affected an estimated 7 million people.

“Following the power outage, we had CERT members come out to the Emergency Operations Center to assist with communications,” Vander Pol said. “That allowed firefighters to go out and help people where it was needed.”

But, the program would also just be beneficial for one’s own knowledge, Vander Pol said.

Participants will learn how to interact with people after a disaster, how to be a good listener and learn medical operations like bleed control or how to splint a broken bone, he said.

The annual program is free and takes place at the Public Safety Training facility at 184 Santar Place in San Marcos. The program meets from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. every Wednesday from April 13 to June 4.

For more information, go to vistacert.org.

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