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MB CERT: Training the Masses for an Emergency

Dec 18, 2014 01:09PM ● Published by DigMB Staff

The November 2014 Manhattan Beach Community Emergency Response Team after is live drill, which concluded class training.

They frequently work behind the scenes, you don't always see them.

And tonight, when the beloved Manhattan Beach Santa float heads out, they'll once again be part of a support crew, this time bringing smiles to those who come out to see Santa, his reindeer and elves.

But their mission is actually much more serious, though loaded with the kind of good intent and training that gives others the tools they need to take care of themselves, their family, friends, neighbors and the broader community when disaster strikes.

Who are they?

The members of the Manhattan Beach Community Emergency Response Team Association, a group of concerned citizens determined to help others, and to help others help others.

I had the opportunity to take the group's basic training class offered by the Manhattan Beach Community Emergency Response Team Association in November, and my only remarks are: "Everyone who can should take the course."

In 24 hours of live instruction (it goes by very quickly; my class was held for 8 hours on three Saturdays), you learn how to respond to an emergency, how you can help others after you've taken care of yourself and assessed the needs of those immediately around you.

And it's the little things a trained able body can do that can and will make a difference in a major disaster.

But even if you're never subject to a major disaster (and let's hope that's all of our fates), this class teaches you simple skills you can use to keep you and your loved ones safe.

The Class

Part of what I liked about CERT training was learning that I come first, that I need to be OK before I can help others and that I should always put my own safety and health first and foremost, and above the needs of others.

Now, this might sound basic, if not obvious, but it's the No. 1 tenet for CERT. 

"A CERT member's first responsibility is personal and family safety," according to the participant manual. Only after personal and family safety are "secured is it possible and pertinent to respond in a group capacity to do what is necessary for the community as a whole."

Indeed, CERT's approach to responding to an emergency is methodical and practical and you'll find it helpful regardless of whether or not you ever respond to an emergency in a CERT capacity. 

In the basic class, you learn important things to do when an emergency, like an earthquake, strikes. You learn to locate your home's systems: water, gas and electricity and to make sure their shut-off levers are pliable enough for you to move them should you need to shut down any part of these systems.

And you learn life-saving skills you can put to use, including how to deal with fire and identify its chemistry, and extinguish it if appropriate; deal with hazardous materials (you basically don't!); help in life-threatening situations; render medical aid as appropriate (you learn simple ways to tilt a head and chin to clear an obstructed airway, stop bleeding, and identify and treat a victim for shock), and triage victims (triage is a sorting process that designates the priority level of a victim).

And while doing such things might sound intimidating, CERT training knocks out any negative preconceptions and eliminates any fear.

Yes, you have to apply yourself, and listen and learn. But the hands-on in-class training is without pressure and comes with full instructions, gone over before you attempt to practice the aid. 

I found myself caught up in my own head, at times wondering if I would be able to remember what I was learning and actually use it. But my classmates and instructors were all so great and helpful, any thought of failure or being not good enough was quickly washed away, and I simply executed the exercise. 

Perhaps part of why CERT training is so mellifluous is because CERT demands that its members work in pairs--you use a buddy system at all times (unless you're in a more responsible role). And while you learn to collaborate and consult with your buddy in class, you also learn to provide your input. 

My buddy and I talked each other through the head and chin tilt exercise to clear an obstructed airway. We helped each other create a sling for an injured arm. 

Indeed, the low-key environment made the learning that much easier.

But our instructors were always a part of what we were doing, always on hand to help, making sure we each knew what we were doing as we learned our new skills.

We also learned about how people can react during an emergency and we learned about terrorism from the City of Manhattan Beach's official liaison.

The bottom line? We were prepared when we took on the last portion of our training, a live drill with injured people, fire, fallen objects, and more.

And because CERT uses an organized structure in an emergency and buddy teams, our class members selected leaders who then sent out and supplied teams to deal with the crisis at hand.

The video with this article captures a portion of the live drill, in which our class got to use an MB CERT truck loaded with supplies and all our CERT gear. In the drill, we determined what was going on, what needed to be done, triaged victims, dealt with smoke, put out a fire, used a fire hose, rendered first aid to the injured, and moved them on stretchers.

The next MB CERT Community Emergency Response Team training will take place in the spring. The cost is $60 per person, and each class member is given written training materials and a CERT backpack containing a CERT helmet, safety goggles, knee pads, a 4 in 1 Emergency Tool (for shutting off valves, etc.), a heavy duty flashlight with batteries, an N95 mask, an MB CERT First Aid Kit (gauze pads, triangle bandages, elastic gauze rolls, and more), work gloves, retractable utility knife, a whistle, triage sort tape, and a CERT All-Weather Filed Operating Guide.

Information is available at info@mbcerta.org.

Manhattan Beach Community Emergency Response Nov. 2014 Class Live Drill Training

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