The annual CERT National Conference was held in September near Universal Studios in Hollywood CA.

The conference was attended by 600 CERTs from 30 states and several other countries; Maggie Lang and Diane Ayers from Marin attended and the abbreviated notes from the conference follow. Let us know at if you have any questions or wish further information about any of the following topics. There are over 600,000 CERTs trained  and over 2700 CERT organizations in the U.S.

Notes from Conference:

Welcome & opening remarks from Los Angeles Vice Mayor w/ congratulations for 30 yrs.

CERT started in L.A. with Fire Chief Frank Borden. L.A. officials have recently worked on MOU’s with all major telecommunications to provide services for all residents after disaster, even if their carrier’s towers are down.

L.A. Fire Chief Darren Ogden- congratulations for 30 yrs. “CERTs changed the face of CA & the country & with concept of civic duties as partnering with public safety”.

He quoted Craig Fugate, Director of FEMA, who said “In 95% of all emergencies, bystanders or victims themselves are the first to provide emergency assistance or to perform a rescue”.

Chief James Hellmold- L.A. Sheriff’s Dept.- congratulations- “Community members are actually the first responders; public safety professionals are the second responders”. Has to be a joint community effort.

Lisa Spinelli- Chair -thank you for your service & introduced Wendy Spencer, CEO for

Corporation for National & Community Service, the federal entity responsible for cataloguing opportunities for people to serve their country: AmeriCorp, Senior Corp (RSVP) & Social (345,000 serving today in 50,000 locations).  Focus on education, ex. opportunity, environment & disaster preparedness.

They found that those communities that responded & recovered the quickest in recent Fla. hurricanes were those whose emergency management leaders had a bond with Volunteer Centers, including among others, CERT.

The flooding still being coped with in La. is mindblowing- Americorp will stay & help rebuild.

Over 40,000 Americorp & Sr. Corp workers helped support residents in the 10 years after Katrina.

Senior Corp- some of the best & some of most experienced volunteers, who are 60-95 years old.

AmeriCorp- 18-24 yr.olds- serve 1-2 year with FEMA. FEMA has hired over 100 of these kids after their Americorp commitment is over.

She asked: Do you have the most resilient community?…the best prepared?….the healthiest?


Suu Va Tai from Cal Volunteers-introduced the director of Individual & Community Services from FEMA(CERT part of this).

***50% of families have no plan. Need massive culture change-“just do one thing!”

“CERTs are one of the most important force multipliers we have to change the community”.

“Youth are the way we’ll achieve a culture change in America”.

3 new initiatives:

  • Working with Subject Matter Experts (SME) on what are the ‘protective actions” for 12 most common national hazards (now includes active shooter).
  • “You are the help until help arrives “- came out of the Boston Marathon. Stress on minimum ability to administer first aid to save a life.
  • Do a better job at getting underserved communities to be better prepared. The elderly, children, non-English speakers & econ. disadvantaged are always more impacted with any disaster.

Conducting needs assessments & working with SME’s & focus groups.

Karen Baker- Cal Volunteers: Our 1st responders need our understanding & support more than ever.

  • Keep professionalizing- the more professional we can be, the more we will be trusted & utilized.
  • Grow the awareness of the CERT program- we’re trained & ready to go!
  • Encourage all to look at ways to get the resources to grow.

Be there for each other- be trained & have each other’s backs.

This organization is so cost effective- big way those communities can be better prepared.

CAL Office of Emergency Services Director- Mark Ghilarducci

CA still  in 5 yr. drought which leads to recurring fire events; we’ve had 850 fires so far this year; more than entire past year. Also fire behavior different. Dealing in aftermath of many fires.

All disasters are local; he saw CERTs in all the disasters in CA this past year (Lake Co., Kern Co. & San Bernardino); CERTs helped at Napa EQ, after San Bernardino attack (helped man phones in Emergency Operation Center) & Santa Barbara oil spill. He sees CERTs as simply part of a response team.

Volunteer of the Year: Trish Huelga of Christian Co DART- volunteer in animal response efforts and Volunteer of the Year in Christian County Mo.

Lifetime Achievement: Chief Frank Borden, who started CERT 30 yrs. ago. Went to Japan in 1985 for earthquake (EQ) exercises and observed their emergency teams; they had a large fire department. Later went to Mexico City after eartquake when people came out of everywhere to help & not trained, so many died trying to help & in aftershocks; had very small fire department so thought about training residents to be the actual first responders; started with 27 residents in L.A. In 1987 had Whittier EQ and within 5 min. all public safety personnel deployed. Fire Chief went to Mayor Bradley, who asked “where is that CERT plan?” Within one month, he had new job, training more residents in the CERT program. CERT program developed from that experience & opportunity.

Churchill:” Make a living by what you work; make a life by what you give.”

Break-Out Sessions:

Disaster Service Worker (DSW) Program

Anita Chant: origin of disaster service worker program came after Pearl Harbor- fear that coast of Ca would be attacked so enlisted & trained residents to fill in gaps left by men in military; realized no compensation so set up “Certified War Councils”(now called Disaster Councils), allowed to register ‘disaster workers’ with oath of loyalty.

Only $1,012,000 /year for entire program for the state. Discussed forms needed to be filed. Agency that registers DSW is responsible for forms; DSW’s are covered in training or a declared local disaster.

Review teaching CERT Modules

Teaching CERT Organization-

Need right person to teach this module & recommend at the beginning that they use & include protocols for that. Capture the concepts rather than too much time on the forms.

*When police or fire dept. arrive, THEY are in charge. Teach slowly so students understand.  Use exercises. If exercise gets out of hand, say “STOP” & restart.

Disaster Psych- Customize your slides; include recent events.

-Talk to students about challenge of taking care of neighbors. They are not professionals.

– Important to recognize signs when someone is having difficulty & how to help.

-Important to listen.

-Victims may lash out at rescuers.

-Emphasize self-care. May be overwhelming so need to step-out of role. Don’t be super-hero.

-What NOT to say.

 Terrorism- main message: what can you do as an individual to be the eyes & ears in your community? Report what is out of the ordinary & concerning to you.

-Emphasize personal safety. This is a STOP sign, like hazardous material.

-Keep message simple. Avoid lots of technical terms.

-Although Marin at low risk for target, you may be traveling or we might get evacuation crowds from SF.

-Will get a lot of ‘what ifs”; ok to say “I don’t know”; ok to say that a suggested event is improbable & talk about what IS realistic in what the students say.

– Several CERTs worked in Emergency Operation Center after San Bernardino & helped in learning assistance centers.

Communicating with CERTs

Tom Crane- works for Everbridge (this is the vendor that provides Marin’s reverse 911 service).

As a communicator, you have great power…and great responsibility.

Characteristics of a message in emergency:

Messages should be at level of 5th grader (use proofing/readability in Word)

-simple, direct, clear, customized to audience.

– no more than 3 message points; no more than 3 short sentences; keep key content less than 30 words.

How? Telephone, text, email, radio, mobile apps, social media, docs, in person (bike).

Who are you communicating with?

What are you communicating about?

Why are you communicating now?

Communicating information so decision makers can make the appropriate decisions.

Who: All CERTs, Incident Commander, 1st responders & other agencies

What: what actions involved, situation awareness, activating/deactivating command posts?

Why: safety, record keeping, follow-up needed

When: before, during, after events- all will be different.

How: email, text, docs, HAMS, face to face, mobile

Convey to all CERTS so they can get the information about events/actions they did not see.

Train the Trainer (training CERT instructors

What are the skill sets of instructors you want? SME’s, Fire Dept./Police Dept. personnel, volunteers.

Train the trainer takes LOTS of planning.

Basic requirements:

Volunteer- SME & has taken the basic training.

SME-taken IS317-intro to CERT (bring certificate)

*don’t just go over slides…pick key ones to talk about.

Need 2 teach backs/ how to teach to adult learners ( + feedback on teachbacks).

Train the Trainer (T3) recommend should be three full days.

Program Manager- 2 full days.

Sign agreement not to deviate from curriculum.