The South Pasadena Fire Department is getting ready to graduate reisdents in emergency training. Courtesy photo

South Pasadena’s Fire Department has been providing emergency training to about 30 members of the community over the last three weeks and is expecting to graduate the trained contingent Saturday, officials said.

The program, known at the Community Emergency Response Team or CERT, educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations, according to So Pas Fire Chief Paul Riddle.

“The training is designed to better prepare our community to be able to respond to and recover from a disaster,” Riddle said last week during an hour-long interview at the fire station. “The local program started in March of 2014 and has trained upwards to 350 residents.”

The training is over three days on consecutive Saturdays – this is the 11th class – and is conducted at the fire station. The local training includes disaster preparation, disaster first aid, search and rescue, fire extinguisher, light cribbing, electrical safety and shelter/care, according to Riddle.

“It’s a program put out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” Riddle said. “It’s a federally supported program. It’s run nationally. Basically it’s a way we can train our citizens to be self-reliant during a disaster. We give them basic skill sets.”

Riddle explained further exactly what the residents will be able to accomplish at the conclusion of the training.

“There are a few areas that we teach the participants when the go through,” he said. “We teach them basic disaster first aid; how to stop bleeding, how to set broken bones. Controlling bleeding is probably the main one. We talk about basic disaster search & rescue. How to search an area of your home or a building. We teach basic cribbing or stabilizing techniques and how to support structures that are compromised. We teach them how to extinguish small fires. We also touch base on the psychological, what to expect during a disaster. Lot of our residents have moved here from out-of-state and they haven’t been through a large-scale disaster like an earthquake.”

The CERT program also offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, which allows them to focus on more complex tasks. There are more than 2,700 local CERT programs nationwide, with more than 600,000 individuals trained since CERT became a national program, according to www.ready.org.

City officials here have identified through the strategic planning process that disaster preparedness is a top priority, Riddle said. Along with CERT training, South Pasadena Fire officials are also in the final stages of remodeling and updating the city’s Emergency Operations Center and have updated the city’s Local Hazard Mitigation Plan.

“Again, these collective efforts will place the city in a position to effectively prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster,” Riddle said. “We are trying to create a community that is prepared to be self-sufficient for up to a week, if not longer and be able to help you neighbor. Part of this whole CERT program is something called map your neighborhood. It is basically formally getting to know your neighborhood, your block and see what skill sets you have. Some streets have doctors, they have nurses, policemen, firemen; find out who they are so during a disaster you can all come together and as a street or a block be able to help each other out, which is the whole point during a disaster. When the community comes together it responds more effectively.”

The class, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon, started April 6 and again on Saturday, April 13, and ends Saturday, April 20, graduation day.

Residents can sign up for the CERT program by going to the city’s website, southpasadenaca.gov. The Fire Department holds two CERT classes a year. The program is free.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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