April 12 was a busy day for members of the CERT community.  Marin County CERT’s third annual countywide disaster simulation exercise was held at the Romberg Center in Tiburon, under the sponsorship of Tiburon Fire Department. Professional firefighters from Ross Valley Fire, Marin County Fire, Mill Valley Fire, Corte Madera Fire and Larkspur Fire became instructors and safety officers for 34 CERT members as they reviewed and practiced basic first aid, triage, communication, and search and rescue skills. In the case of an emergency or disaster, CERTs may be called upon to help so it is important to practice and update response skills.

Skills Training

The morning was spent on skills review and practice to prepare for the two simulations after lunch. The group was broken up into teams to rotate through four practice stations in 30-minute sets.

The Communication station distributed hand-held radios and in teams of two, the group fanned out around the Romberg Center property. The lead firefighter, acting as Incident Command, asked for updates for each group of two, sent directions and eventually brought all team members to the same location. Radio practice is critical to not only learn to use a radio, but to learn how to communicate succinctly.

Lifting a volunteer victim on a backboard

CERTs are shown how to safely lift and carry a victim on a backboard.

The first aid skill station reviewed basic splinting techniques and victim carry techniques. CERTs practiced by splinting a volunteer victim’s leg, strapping the injured onto a backboard, and safely carrying the victim to the hospital.

The third skill station practiced situation assessment. Walking around the property, the lead Firefighter asked the group questions about what conclusions can be drawn from the exterior of a building to determine building safety and whether CERTs should try to enter.

The last station was the “box”, a crawling exercise to practice search and rescue techniques. Teams of two crawl through the small, dark 10 foot long box, breaking through interior obstacles and rubble to get to the end where there is a victim, played by a firefighter outside the box. Team members practice communicating with each other in the box for safety and with the victim to determine their placement.

CERTs practice crawling through small spaces full of obstacles in case they need to access victims in damaged buildings.

CERTs practice crawling through small spaces full of obstacles in case they need to access victims in damaged buildings.

The Simulations

All CERT graduates know the best training we receive is in a simulation. Even though it isn’t real, it is still a stressful experience, fast-paced, learning to work with people you don’t know, assigning tasks and working through obstacles and challenges in the moment.

Captain Timmer introduces the simulation exercise to the group.

Captain Timmer introduces the simulation exercise to the group.

In the afternoon simulation, the group was informed there had been a major earthquake and an unknown number of victims inside the building. In teams of 4 or 5, each team was assigned a place to search and entered the dark building to locate the victims, assess, triage the injuries and safely remove the injured and deliver to the hospital. This simulation was done twice with a short debrief in between to discuss issues and learnings.

During the simulation CERTs locate and triage a volunteer victim.

During the simulation CERTs locate and triage a volunteer victim.

It takes an enormous amount of planning and work to prepare for a day of training. Many thanks to all the CERTs and firefighters for making this great day of training successful.

In the event of a large scale disaster, such as an earthquake, our public safety officials will quickly become overwhelmed. CERTs will be able to assist those officials in checking on neighborhoods, businesses, churches and even schools, rendering assistance until professionals can arrive. CERT is a national organization sponsored by FEMA and partnering with Citizens Corp with groups in all 50 states with over 300 CERT groups in California. Marin County now has a countywide program with 10 classes/year taught in 5 locations in the county. The 18 hours of training includes suppression of small fires, search & rescue techniques, triage and treatment of injuries and how to work as a team in a disaster.  

Upcoming CERT Trainings: Nicasio May 17 and Mill Valley June 14

To learn more and register for the Nicasio or Mill Valley classes, visit readymarin.org/calendar.
Call Maggie at 415-485-3409 with any questions.