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#246501 - 06/01/12 12:50 PM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: hikermor]
JerryFountain Offline
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Registered: 12/06/07
Posts: 418
Loc: St. Petersburg, Florida
Lono, Pete:

I don't think we are that far apart, just taking a Half-Full, half-empty view. My major point is that many professional groups do not PLAN for the use of untrained or less well trained personell and therefore do not use them or misuse them to their own detriment. In my mind there should be a plan to use all available resources, from semi professional (SAR, CAP, NG, etc.) to those with some training to those without any training. Disasters are, by definition, too big for the local first responders. Getting as many as possible trained to whatever level you can and preparing to use them is good planning.

Since CERT is a local project, normally run by a local professional group (often apparently the local FD), those first responders in an area should know what the level of training is and have a plan on how they will utilize those resources.

CERT is, as several pointed out, also very importantly about taking care of themselves and their neighbors until first responders get there.

Respectfully,

Jerry

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#246520 - 06/02/12 01:14 AM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: JerryFountain]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1197
Loc: Alaska
Originally Posted By: JerryFountain
.... My major point is that many professional groups do not PLAN for the use of untrained or less well trained personell and therefore do not use them or misuse them to their own detriment. In my mind there should be a plan to use all available resources, from semi professional (SAR, CAP, NG, etc.) to those with some training to those without any training. Disasters are, by definition, too big for the local first responders. Getting as many as possible trained to whatever level you can and preparing to use them is good planning.

Since CERT is a local project, normally run by a local professional group (often apparently the local FD), those first responders in an area should know what the level of training is and have a plan on how they will utilize those resources.

CERT is, as several pointed out, also very importantly about taking care of themselves and their neighbors until first responders get there.

I think Jerry has it right. While I haven't any direct experience with CERT, my understanding is that it is meant for extreme and extraordinary circumstances.

Most agencies do occaisional training for catastrophic events with mass casualties. For example here in Anchorage in June there will be a simulated airliner crash at the airport. This will give the Fire Dept and others the chance to practice responding to a big event, well beyond the usual. Good training, no doubt, but the assumption in this kind of drill is usually that the basic response system is intact. And that help could be summoned from off duty personel and from neighboring agencies.

However, there can be situations when our regular official trained agencies are overwhellmed. For example consider a M9 earthquake under LA, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage. Not only could damage be very widespread, but many of the official responders themselves might be casualties. Not all firehouses are built to withstand a major quake. In this case, the Fire Dept could be totally overwhelmed. Help from official sources could be many hours, or more likely days in coming.

In regards to Pete's and other's comments regarding CERT people not having comparable training to professional firefighters, or lacking OSHA/NFPA complient gear, the point is that in extreme circumstances people will respond anyway, to do what they can with what they have. In this case even minimal training is better than no training. And I think Jerry's point is well taken that agencies should give some thought and do some pre-planning as to how they might utilize those semi-trained CERT folks in extreme circumstances.

Like hikermor I have seen some instances of untrained people being successfully used in emergencies. Some years back we had a highly publicized search for two young boys. They had disapeared from their neighborhood which bordered on a large, very wild park area. This was during a period of serious cold weather with little or no snow. A major search was stood up using all of the available trained volunteer SAR people. As the search hit the news, large numbers of the general public came out to "help" search. This, of course complicated our efforts. Many of these people were rather poorly equipped for the conditions, were not "clue conscious", made it harder for the search dogs, etc etc. However, the point was that there was absolutely no practical way to stop them from going out. What we ended up doing was forming them into teams led by our trained folks. The team leaders gently but firmly weeded out those who were grossly unprepared. They impressed on people the importance of working as a team, and following the plan set by the IC. While it didn't work perfectly, and there were some inevitable problems, overall it went pretty good. None of the ad-hoc searchers became casualties themselves. (Sadly, the two boys were eventually found, under the ice, in a small pond very near their house.)

Since then, there have been a couple of major avalanche body recoveries where we have used large numbers of untrained public in probe lines. There has been some realization in the SAR comunity that we ought to do some training and pre-planning for using this kind of untrained resource. Unfortunately, up to this point this has been all talk. I'm hopefull that one of these days, we (official agencies and volunteer SAR teams) will take some concrete steps to better prepare for instances where we use untrained public to help, since these situations will surely occur again.
_________________________
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

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#246524 - 06/02/12 01:59 AM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: Lono]
hikermor Offline
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Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7326
Loc: southern Cal
I would agree that professional First Responders are properly skeptical of civilians with CERT-level training. It was constantly stressed in our course that the subject just discussed for the past half hour was frequently the focus for extensive courses, often weeks long, for professional personnel. When the professional units are functioning and coping, civilians should only play a minor role - after all, their tax dollars are doing beneficial work. It is when the pros are overwhelmed that CERTs need to do whatever they can.

One reason I was drawn to the CERT training was the realization that, although I am quite comfortable with outdoor and wilderness situations (at least in the Western US), I am much less knowledgeable about the hazards present in the urban scene. I still have a lot to learn, but the brief exposure in CERT certainly opened my eyes a bit.

AKSAR, there must be some pertinent incidents from the massive 60s era earthquake that struck Alaska. I am also reminded of the rule of thumb that frequently just as many people die in post hurricane clean up efforts as perish in the actual 'cane itself. Would CERT training or something similar help here?
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#246561 - 06/03/12 05:58 AM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: hikermor]
Bingley Offline
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Registered: 02/27/08
Posts: 1428
It seems people in this thread have interpreted in different ways what it means for CERT to "supplement" the first responders. The CERT training manual can offer clarification:

Quote:
Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) respond in the period immediately after a disaster when response resources are overwhelmed or delayed.
CERTs are able to:
&#61607; Assist emergency services personnel when requested in accordance with standard operating procedures developed by the sponsoring agency and by area of training
&#61607; Assume some of the same functions as emergency services personnel following a disaster
While CERTs are a valuable asset in emergency response, CERTs are not trained to perform all of the functions or respond to the same degree as professional responders. CERTs are a bridge to professional responders until they are able to arrive.


Some posters say, well, after a disaster, people are going to help anyway, so CERTs are OK even though they are less qualified than professional responders. I don't entirely agree with the logic. There are certain useful things that people with organization and training (even if not a lot) can do safely, if they know their limitations. So it's not the case that there will be no standard anyway, so you guys with poor training can do whatever you want. I'd say CERTs should stick to the things they can do, and avoid the things they can't do and the things that will put them or others in danger.

My main complaint is with the training. The course I went through really didn't have enough hands-on exercises. People aren't going to be able to do things months or possibly years after the class, without actual exercises to drill in the skills. They will also need regular reviews a few times a year. Otherwise it's hard for me to see how they will (1) retain the knowledge about the stuff they're supposed to do, and (2) avoid doing stupid things in times of stress.

I'm actually worried about this. This is the flaw of a volunteer, civilian, community-based program. People have varying degrees of commitment, they drop in and out. The funding is limited, so the trainers obviously do not have a full-time job of coming up with training opportunities.

On a pertinent note, the course I took emphasizes what we can't do/should stay away from. This annoyed some people for whom this meant they would not be able to use the training they received in other spheres of their lives (firefighting, military, etc.). But it makes sense to me because CERT has to work for the lowest common denominator.

If I have to sum up my feelings, this is what I have to say. From what I've seen, CERT is a work in progress, and I'm sure its definition and interaction with the professional responders will change as it develops.

By the way, someone earlier mentioned that CERTs could haul lumber. That's kind of a surprise to me, and it actually sounds to me like outside of what CERT does. But maybe this is a reflection of the differences in training.

One final thought. I don't get why CERT puts so much emphasis on documentation. We have lots of forms to fill out, and we have to fill them out for the victims we treat in disasters, the houses we search, etc. There's gotta be something legal going on. Pete mentions that searchers should have a criminal background check, otherwise they cannot be trusted to go through houses with valuables after a disaster. I wonder whether this is a way to address this concern without going through the expenses of a background check.

Pete: for examples of CERT actually doing stuff, see "CERT in Action" on the Citizen Corps website: <http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/certinaction/index.shtm>.

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#246575 - 06/03/12 04:26 PM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: Bingley]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1197
Loc: Alaska
As I said before, I've had no direct association with CERT. However, I have had a good deal of experience as a member of, and working with other volunteer SAR teams. I happen to think volunteerism is a good thing. This thread has made me more curious about CERT.

Originally Posted By: Bingley
..... If I have to sum up my feelings, this is what I have to say. From what I've seen, CERT is a work in progress, and I'm sure its definition and interaction with the professional responders will change as it develops. .....
That seems to be the case, from what I've seen. As others have noted, CERT seems to vary a lot from place to place (and change over time). This is fairly typical of volunteer SAR teams as well. Much depends on the motivation and commitment of members. It also helps when there are actual real world call outs from time to time. I was chatting with a member of another volunteer team in our area, and he observed that there is a happy medium of call-out volume. Too few call-outs and people get bored and loose their motivation to maintain training. Too many call-outs and folks get burned out, and tired of taking time off from work.

How often and in what capacity a volunteer team (of any sort) gets used will depend a lot on what sort of relationship has been built up with the local official first response (FD and LE). Here in Alaska we live in a vast land with few people, and an environment that can be severe. Local authorities are spread very thin, and Alaskans have a long history of volunteerism. I've been told that the Denali CERT team (based up in Healy near Denali National Park) works with the NPS rangers with searches in the park. Down on the Kenai, South of Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula CERT seems to be very active, are trying to obtain grants for some significant equipment (eg. portable shelters), and are becoming part of the local response scene. See their newsletter.

Originally Posted By: Bingley
..... One final thought. I don't get why CERT puts so much emphasis on documentation. We have lots of forms to fill out, and we have to fill them out for the victims we treat in disasters, the houses we search, etc. There's gotta be something legal going on. Pete mentions that searchers should have a criminal background check, otherwise they cannot be trusted to go through houses with valuables after a disaster. I wonder whether this is a way to address this concern without going through the expenses of a background check. ...
It is possible the paperwork is more to help the Incident Management Team do their job. They can't properly allocate resources unless they know which areas have already been searched. Incident management requires a two way flow of information. ICS can involve a lot of forms. When I first got involved as a volunteer SAR responder I tended to think ICS wasn't that important. And I'd be the first to admit that ICS classes are rather boring.

It is true that in a small incident you can get by with a minimal command structure. But once an incident grows beyond a certain size, or goes into multiple operational periods, the command structure becomes crucial. After having experienced a few major events I've learned just how crucial it is that the Incident Management Team does a good job. As I get older and slower climbing the hills, I'm transitioning more into IMT roles. Awhile back I completed ICS-300, which was useful, but not that exciting. More recently I completed MLPI (Managing the Lost Person Incident). It was intense, and interesting. Hopefully it will help us do a better job in future incidents.
_________________________
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

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#246589 - 06/03/12 11:14 PM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: Bingley]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
Originally Posted By: Bingley

On a pertinent note, the course I took emphasizes what we can't do/should stay away from. This annoyed some people for whom this meant they would not be able to use the training they received in other spheres of their lives (firefighting, military, etc.). But it makes sense to me because CERT has to work for the lowest common denominator.

If I have to sum up my feelings, this is what I have to say. From what I've seen, CERT is a work in progress, and I'm sure its definition and interaction with the professional responders will change as it develops.

By the way, someone earlier mentioned that CERTs could haul lumber. That's kind of a surprise to me, and it actually sounds to me like outside of what CERT does. But maybe this is a reflection of the differences in training.

One final thought. I don't get why CERT puts so much emphasis on documentation. We have lots of forms to fill out, and we have to fill them out for the victims we treat in disasters, the houses we search, etc. There's gotta be something legal going on. Pete mentions that searchers should have a criminal background check, otherwise they cannot be trusted to go through houses with valuables after a disaster. I wonder whether this is a way to address this concern without going through the expenses of a background check.

Pete: for examples of CERT actually doing stuff, see "CERT in Action" on the Citizen Corps website: <http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/certinaction/index.shtm>.


It goes back to the premise of CERT, do the greatest good for the greatest number (and then move on). I think alot of people resist that notion on a personal level - both because their needs may go unaddressed, and because they don't want an objective unemotional decision to be made about allocation of resources after a disaster. Most of the folks in CERT get that, but not everyone.

Yes, CERTs can haul lumber, such as to a cribbing site to effect rescue, or on request of the FD to crib or bridge a fire hose. Hauling lumber is a matter of picking up and putting it down where its needed. Its akin to filling and stacking sandbags - it makes sense if you have someone knowledgeable about where and how to stack sandbags to prevent water incursion. What you do with the lumber may depend: are you without first responders, but extracting an injured person from beneath a collapsed wall? Is the scene safe? CERT says, go ahead and crib and get the person out of there. If the FD is there, drop your lumber, get out of the way, and await additional instructions. You may have saved everyone valuable time by hauling lumber to where its needed, but you might waste the time away if you get in the way or attempt a rescue outside your training.

Paperwork / documentation. There does seem to be lots of it, because rescue situations are involved, and CERT anticipates that you may be involved in dozens of rescue situations before first responders arrive. Things not documented will be forgotten. Every house that your CERT team ventures into to check for injured has to be documented - or the first responders will have to do it again. Every victim with injuries should be documented, or the EMTs and ERs will have to start from scratch understanding their patients. Competent searchers and competent medical rescue can save first responders precious, live-saving time. Ad hoc or untrained CERTs who go cowboy and go out and do alot of SAR but don't document their path through their neighborhood will leave the arriving IC with a dilemma: do I send fire fighters out to re-do the SAR in an area, or do I use them to continue the SAR in another, unexplored area? Documentation is key: a CERT leader is responsible for ensuring that they make an effective light SAR, such that victims aren't left undetected in rooms, or garages, or underneath partially collapsed structures. And - they have to document it, as best they can.

When you finished CERT, did you print out an area map of your neighborhood, and document the location of gas and water shut offs, electrical lines, and possibly the location of the elderly, MDs, heavy equipment operators etc etc? In Washington State they have a great program called Map Your Neighborhood which dovetails with CERT training really well: go door to door, explain your interest, and that you want to organize the neighborhood to ensure everyone can be accounted for and assisted after a disaster. You document the shut offs, meet your neighborhoods, and tell them what to expect - knock on the door for starters, to make sure they are ok. I did this for the surrounding 2 blocks, and it was an eye opener - most neighbors were very gracious, many thought I and my brother (a neighbor) bordered on the slightly nuts, and a few took us to be akin to door to door salemen, and shut the door on us. Interesting bit, when I told them that in the event of a serious disaster such as a major EQ, we would be marking the outside of each structure with the code indicating that it had been searched or not (you all saw the search documentation protocol in Katrina), at least a dozen took signficant issue with that - "don't mark up my house!"

Anyway, back to CERT relevance: you keep the neighborhood map, you document your searches, and when the FD arrives, you hand it to the IC (better yet, your neighborhood IC hands it to the incoming FD IC, along with triage and medical reports etc etc), and you provide a debrief on the extent of searches, and what areas weren't fully searched, and probably will require another look. You tell them where you found victims moved to triage, you tell them where you left victims beneath rubble, and you tell them where the deceased are. Probably most important, you've documented your search, you are able to relate this to actual street addresses, and by the exterior markings you left on the front door or outer structure. The FD can deploy rescuers where needed. What happens next is up to the IC, but most will look at your work and consider it accomplished, and deploy resources elsewhere as first priority. Because you have been comparing map to map, and the IC is able to mark off areas on his map as if (for the most part) his FFs did teh search. Or so our local FD Lt told us during CERT training.

That's the ideal anyway, but seldom the reality with CERT. I've never seen a local CERT train to assess a neighborhood situation after a disaster: I think it would be a good training exercise after the final mock training in the CERT training.

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#246594 - 06/04/12 01:32 AM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: Lono]
Bingley Offline
Veteran

Registered: 02/27/08
Posts: 1428
Originally Posted By: Lono
Paperwork / documentation. There does seem to be lots of it, because rescue situations are involved, and CERT anticipates that you may be involved in dozens of rescue situations before first responders arrive. Things not documented will be forgotten. Every house that your CERT team ventures into to check for injured has to be documented - or the first responders will have to do it again. Every victim with injuries should be documented, or the EMTs and ERs will have to start from scratch understanding their patients.


Ah, this is where it gets interesting. Is it your understanding that the forms we fill out will go to the first responders? Have you been explicitly told that? My team discovered that the forms will go up the chain of command, but does not go to the first responders. We were told this is not an example of causing more work for people. For example, medical responders will evaluate the victims from scratch anyway, because CERT assessment and treatment, being of a amateur skill level, cannot be relied upon. My team was frustrated by this policy, because that makes documentation somewhat pointless except for legal/political reasons. The forms are more about controlling the CERT teams, less about helping the victims.

What you say above (and below in a paragraph I do not quote) indicates your area is run differently. Very interesting.

Originally Posted By: Lono
When you finished CERT, did you print out an area map of your neighborhood, and document the location of gas and water shut offs, electrical lines, and possibly the location of the elderly, MDs, heavy equipment operators etc etc?


No. My team has members drawn from different counties, and we "cover" those counties, along with a number of other CERTs. We can also get sent to regions in the state that don't belong to us. Some of my team members live more than an hour away from me, so obviously we don't have the same "neighborhood." One of the things we have to worry about is how to find a meeting point after a disaster, when communication is down, roads/road signs might be damaged, and the deployment location may be so rural that it does not have a useful address. So it sounds like your CERT program is much more neighborhood-based? That seems like a good idea.

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#246595 - 06/04/12 01:44 AM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: hikermor]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7326
Loc: southern Cal
The most sobering concept I encountered in CERT training was the triage protocol- if the victim's airway is occluded, make two attempts to open it. If unsuccessful, drop a black tag and move on. Do not attempt CPR in the overwhelming disaster to which this protocol applies. Think about it a bit - it makes perfect sense. Our instructor pointed out that CPR requires massive application of resources for what is typically an unsuccessful outcome. He stated that he had been present at something like 300 CPR scenes, and had witnessed or participated in exactly seven successful resuscitations.

The level of training achieved in the initial CERT course is well short of mapping neighborhoods, although I have been paying much more attention to electrical lines and the like following training. It should be interesting to see how the CERT concept evolves and matures in the future; doubtless it will be more successful in some jurisdictions (especially those prone to EQ?) than in others.

It is worth mentioning that CERT is not the only pool of "semi-pro" resources available to First Responders in a massive disaster. In our county, many county employees are designated as Disaster Service Workers. For specific tasks, they, and their equipment, will be extremely helpful.
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#246597 - 06/04/12 01:50 AM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: hikermor]
Bingley Offline
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Registered: 02/27/08
Posts: 1428
Originally Posted By: hikermor
The most sobering concept I encountered in CERT training was the triage protocol- if the victim's airway is occluded, make two attempts to open it. If unsuccessful, drop a black tag and move on. Do not attempt CPR in the overwhelming disaster to which this protocol applies. Think about it a bit - it makes perfect sense. Our instructor pointed out that CPR requires massive application of resources for what is typically an unsuccessful outcome. He stated that he had been present at something like 300 CPR scenes, and had witnessed or participated in exactly seven successful resuscitations.


In my course, somebody (a wise guy, I suppose) raised the question: what if everyone is fine except for one little girl who needs CPR? Well, we can't do CPR as CERT, the answer came back, if even you knew how to do it.

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#246600 - 06/04/12 03:47 AM Re: CERT Expectations [Re: Bingley]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7326
Loc: southern Cal
I would have to say that is an extremely absurd answer, because the question poses the typical rescue situation, a small number of victims and lots of rescuers. In that case, I would doff my CERT green hard hat pretty quick. But then the question poses a non-CERT type situation.

I personally have had very consistent results at CPR. Both of my victims were DOA. But one victim received CPR for over an hour (pupils were undilated and his color was good) as our team worked in relays to render aid. Our victim had suffered a witnessed and massive attack and was essentially dead when he hit the ground. CPR definitely does suck up resources.....
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