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Emergency team sees its volunteer ranks grow

CARLSBAD — Carlsbad’s Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, has continued to grow as more and more volunteers train to assist their community in the event of an emergency.
The CERT program, which started in June 2008, is currently hosting its fourth academy to educate a small group of Carlsbad residents. The nine-week course is held twice a year and covers a variety of emergency situations, from disaster medical operations to search and rescue.
“We try to keep it to 25 to have a good student to teacher ratio,” said CERT Program Manager David Harrison, noting the importance of learning emergency preparedness techniques in an intimate environment.
CERT volunteers learn real-life techniques to assist in emergencies from those who know best. At a recent class, Carlsbad Fire Capt. Mike McFadden donned a pair of rubber gloves and demonstrated a patient assessment, just as he would perform one out in the field. The class then had an opportunity to practice on partners with guidance from McFadden to ensure it was done correctly.
To participate in the popular CERT academy, applicants must meet a “laundry list of requirements,” Harrison said. Availability and level of interest are taken into consideration, as well as past volunteer and medical experience. Since the program’s inception, it has received an outpouring of applicants that have to be turned down to keep small numbers in the class.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had a great interest in the program,” Harrison said.
Once admitted, volunteers must complete the initial nine-week class and participate in a graduation exercise to be an official CERT member. Past exercises have included organizing and distributing 4,000 fire preparedness packages and participating in a FEMA-graded decontamination exercise with the county.
Although volunteers will spend most of their CERT career doing public outreach and education in their communities, the opportunity to learn and be prepared in the event of an emergency is what draws them to the program.
“Disaster preparedness has always been dear to my heart,” said Stacie Weigle, a volunteer who had assisted in fire and earthquake relief efforts in a past nursing career. “It adds a little bit of security knowing you have some knowledge to help out.”
For more information on Carlsbad’s CERT opportunities, contact David Harrison at (760) 931-2137.