Community Members Drill Their Emergency Skills

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A CERT volunteer demonstrates his fire suppression skills under the watchful eye of a Newport Beach firefighter. Photo by Jim Collins

More than 100 community members put out fires, treated fake wounds, and rescued a firefighting mannequin from a dark building at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station on Saturday.

They were Community Emergency Response Team volunteers participating in the bi-annual “Drill the Skills” event.

“It was a great event… It went really, really well,” said Newport Beach Fire Department’s Community Preparedness Coordinator, Matt Brisbois.

Student volunteers from the National Charity League and Beach City Service League helped out at the event, most posing as fake victims in the triage section.

About 120 volunteers participate in the event, both current CERT students and past graduates who just wanted to brush up on their skills, Brisbois said. This was the biggest event the program has ever had, he added.

From left, Molly McCunniff, Kristina Junkis and CERT volunteer Cindy Kerby. Photo by Jim Collins

They were divided into six teams and practiced the skills they learned over the past few months. The CERT volunteers also practiced outdoor search and rescue, disaster medical operations overview and received their ID badges.

“It really is like a six-hour drill,” Brisbois said. It’s an accumulation of everything they learned during the program and the stations were the highlights.

About 55 volunteers from both the Spring 2012 CERT class went through a graduation ceremony at the event, certifying them as disaster service workers, ready to help the community if needed in the event of an emergency.

“Our cert volunteers in Newport Beach are really great and very dedicated,” Brisbois said. “They are very willing to come out and help whenever we call them.”

The CERT training program teaches residents how to handle emergency situations and help themselves, their family and their neighborhood following an unexpected disaster.

“Everybody should know how to prepare themselves,” Brisbois recommended. “The next step is being able to help out your community.”

The program teaches basic emergency survival skills as well as family and community preparedness.

“Because emergency services personnel will not be able to help everyone immediately, you can make a difference by using CERT training to save lives and protect property,” the Newport Beach CERT website states. “CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference.”

Volunteers will learn an introduction to disaster preparedness, disaster psychology and team organization, disaster medical operations, fire suppression, terrorism awareness, and light search and rescue.

They will learn to open airways, control bleeding and treat victims for shock, all three which can be potentially fatal, according to the website.

More than 850 residents have been certified through the program and are active within the city, Brisbois said.

“It’s a very active group,” in Newport Beach, he said.

The program is for anyone and everyone, Brisbois said. Any resident of any age can take the class.

“Everybody is welcome to participate,” he said.

Almost everybody graduates, he said, about 99 percent, there are only a handful of those who don’t, he said. If someone misses a class it is easily made up by the other concurrent seasonal class or the next round of classes. No need to re-take the entire program from the start, Brisbois said.

“If anyone is interested, we’d love to have them,” he said.

Newport Beach has four CERT classes a year, the next set will be in October.

Visit or contact Matt Brisbois at [email protected] or 949-644-3112 for more information.

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