North Tahoe establishes inaugural all-volunteer CERT team
April 21, 2014
• According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, CERT was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985.
• The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 demonstrated the threat of a major disaster in California and confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs.
• Since 1993 when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training.
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — While Sue Jackson of Kings Beach holds a victim's head steady, team member Antonia Wollmann feels the body for any soft spots, broken bones and injuries.
"We're going to mark him probably on the forehead, (and for a) broken arm, broken rib, so when the paramedics come up behind us or the medics, they know what's wrong with the patient," Jackson explained.
While this scenario was just an exercise to test their knowledge of first aid assessment, and their "victim" was a practice dummy, one day Jackson, Wollman and her fellow volunteers could be called upon to act in a real emergency.
The North Tahoe Fire Protection District and Placer County Sheriff's Office are sponsoring the first Community Emergency Response Team for the California side of the North Shore.
"No matter how much you try to prepare as a paid agency, you will simply not be able to meet everybody's needs on a day of disaster," said Paul Long, sergeant for the Placer County Sheriff's Office. "Using resources to train citizens to take care of first and foremost their own houses, then their neighbors and then their communities is one of the best things we can do to prepare an entire community for disaster."
Throughout a multi-week course that started in late February, 25 local residents received training on personal emergency preparedness, first aid, fire suppression, light urban search and rescue, and disaster psychology, among other areas.
"I hope I never have to use it in a mass casualty emergency scenario," said Tahoe Vista resident Heidi Doyle, who graduated on April 11 with fellow CERT participants after completing a written and practical examine. "… But when my services are needed, I feel very confident with the skills I've learned and the team members I'll be working with."
The CERT team can only be activated by either NTFPD or PCSO; volunteers cannot dispatch themselves, said Dave Zaski, spokesman for the fire district. The team's coverage area extends from Meeks Bay to Kings Beach, up to Squaw Valley, and can be extended upon request.
"I think it's going to make the community safer because we'll have more resources now to help us in time of need, and they're also going to help us educate our public on things like red flag fire safety awareness," Zaski said.
Another CERT course will likely be held in the fall, he said.
"I encourage people to get involved," Doyle said. "You do not need to have any special skills, knowledge or ability to do it. You just need to have the desire to help out your community."
"The more we can do for ourselves, the better off we'll be," added Fran Robinson, another local CERT graduate.
On the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, a CERT group composed of Incline Village and Crystal Bay volunteers was established in 2004 through the Washoe County Sheriff's Office.
In 2014, the team comprises 18 volunteers, a WCSO spokeswoman said Thursday.