An event last week honored a group of volunteers that are prepared to help the community in the event of a disaster.
Members of the city’s Community Emergency Response Team attended the Newport Beach Fire Department’s Sixth Annual State of CERT dinner and awards banquet at Oasis Senior Center Jan. 31.
More than 140 people attended, said Matt Brisbois, NBFD’s Life Safety Specialist and the CERT program’s leader.
“It was a really great evening,” he said.
Keynote speaker was Anaheim Fire Department’s Emergency Management Assistant Director, Mary Jo Flynn. She discussed the impact social media can have during a disaster and how CERT volunteers can utilize it.
Before the disaster, she said, it’s important to learn the technology and become familiar with using it. Volunteers should build their online networks and develop a team, she added.
During the disaster, volunteers and people affected by the emergency can use social media to let family and friends know they are safe.
“Communicate your location,” Flynn noted in her presentation, and “share what you know – safely.”
An agency can also utilize social media to amplify their message and reach a wider audience.
After the disaster, agencies can spread volunteer and donation information. Online groups can also help those affected understand the grieving process, she added.
Social media can also serve as an archive and “after action reports,” reviews of the process, response and recovery of the disaster.
Social media can be a powerful tool, Brisbois said.
“We have a long way to go with our social media,” he said. “We definitely want to utilize it.”
To get things started, the CERT board tweeting during the event through their handle, @NBCertBoard.
It can be a great way to communicate, organize and monitor the status of neighborhoods throughout the city, Brisbois said.
Also discussed was the current state of the Newport Beach CERT program, including 2013 accomplishments and goals for 2014. The White House Champions of Change award was the highlight of 2013 for the Newport Beach CERT program, Brisbois said.
The volunteers dedicated 1,845 hours last year, Brisbois noted.
The program is continually growing, he said. The classes, which now include an all-day Thursday group, fill up fast, he added.
The event also recognized the efforts of the group’s volunteers and handed out several awards, including: Fire Captain Keith Winokur as the Kevin Pryor Memorial CERT Instructor of the Year; Dover Shores Home Owner’s Association, lead by Jim Gula, won Neighborhood of the Year; James Ward with the Newport Beach Fire Department Spirit of CERT Award; and Dennis Epp and Peter Putnam as Emergency Communications Volunteer(s) of the Year.
The Volunteer of the Year award went to twin sisters Marilyn Broughton and Evalie DuMars of Corona del Mar.
“It’s an honor,” Broughton said. “It’s the ultimate award a volunteer can receive.”
The sisters missed the event due to a family emergency, but heard about their award on Monday.
The duo won the Spirit of CERT award last year.
“It’s nice to be recognized for what we do, but it’s not why we do it,” she added. “We love doing it and we’re going to continue it as long as we can.”
Broughton and DuMars do a tremendous amount of work for the program, Brisbois said
“They’re very deserving,” of the award, he added. “I can’t say enough good things about the two of them.”
They joined the “green army” of CERT volunteers in 2011 after learning about the program from a promotional postcard. They took a few classes and became interested.
The sisters are very involved with CERT, including teaching several classes, setting up for events, promoting the program and sitting on the CERT Volunteer Board of Directors.
As very active volunteers, Broughton said she and DuMars would like to see other volunteers become more involved.
Volunteers should pick an interest, like pets or cooking/food, and learn how it would be affected by a disaster and how they can help in that subject during an emergency.
“People will be amazed at what they can do,” Broughton said.
Residents should prepare for disasters, she said.
“Everyone should be aware of where we are living,” she said, pointing out the city sits on an earthquake fault line and parts of the city would be in trouble if a tsunami were to happen. “CERT is fun and vital.”
The program’s next set of classes start in March. For more information, call (949) 644-3112 or visit nbcert.org.