Community Emergency Response Team recognized by North Tahoe Fire for 10 years of service
The North Tahoe Fire Protection District Board of Directors at its Tuesday meeting recognized the area’s Community Emergency Response Team for 10 years of volunteer service.
Members of the community that are part of the volunteer program are educated in disaster preparedness and are trained in basic response skills in order to assist others in their community following a disaster.
“During the initial phases of an emergency, our neighbors are the first responders,” said North Tahoe Fire Protection District Fire Chief Michael Schwartz in a news release. “Our CERT members are prepared to meet immediate needs during disaster response when first responders may not be available, and we hope that their accomplishments in the community will attract new recruits to join our program.”
The team was formed following two significant wildfires — the Angora Fire and the Washoe Fire — that occurred in 2007. The 15-acre Washoe Fire destroyed five homes in North Tahoe Fire’s service area and caused major traffic delays. An “After Action Review” of the incident, according to the fire protection district, prompted the late Chief Duane Whitelaw to hire a public information officer and form a team of volunteers that could assist with the information gap resulting from a large scale event.
In 2009, the Citizen Emergency Information Team was officially organized with 12 volunteers on the North Shore, and in the next few years evolved to a district-wide FEMA-certified CERT program. Today, the team boasts more than 50 members, and of those, roughly 30 volunteer regularly.
The group trains together on a monthly basis, receiving standardized FEMA CERT instruction on topics such as CERT organization, disaster psychology, disaster medical operations, and shelter operations. The team also conducts drills to staff the Emergency Operations Center, staff phone lines, deploy sign trailers, stage mobile information booths, and deploy the district’s AM 1630 transmitters.
Most recently, the board approved a retired ambulance to be refurbished to serve as a firefighter rehabilitation unit. The unit will be deployed by the team at the scene of a fire emergency or training exercise to assist in the monitoring and treatment of personnel at risk of metabolic heat buildup, dehydration and overexertion.
The team also trains with other CERT programs and agencies that participate in a number of drills including evacuations, mass casualty incidents, active shooter drills and preparedness events.
“There’s a whole gambit of things that are really invaluable,” said Brent Armstrong, engineer/paramedic and CERT program lead at North Tahoe Fire Protection District, during a 30-minute presentation on the program. “One of the biggest things is they’re just a direct extension of us. They’re ambassadors to this district. They’re everything we embody.”
In past years, CERT has been activated for several notable incidents, including a door-to-door search of more than 50 homes in need of assistance during the winter storms of 2017. In 2014, the team was also activated to assist with evacuation, information and community meetings during the King Fire.
For information on becoming a member of the Community Emergency Response Team, visit ntfire.net/cert.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.