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CERT continues to gain respect, focus on growing


Last updated 1/31/2008 at Noon

“Our goal is to have everyone in Fallbrook CERT-trained,” says Mike Crain, North County CERT planning chief and board president who was one of North County CERT’s first graduates in 2005.

Crain, along with James Beebe of the North County Fire Protection District, is heading efforts to increase the number of volunteers beyond the 260-member group who were instrumental in assisting victims of the Rice Canyon Fire.

Organized in Fallbrook in 2005, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was introduced in 1985 by the Los Angeles City Fire Department to train citizens and private and government employees to assist emergency service providers in a disaster.

According to the CERT Web site, “Since 1993 when…training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training.”

With two major endeavors behind them - the Cedar Fire in 2006 and the Rice Canyon Fire last year - North County CERT has launched long-range plans which will enable them to assist residents of the greater Fallbrook area at a moment’s notice, regardless of the disaster.

Like many efforts in Fallbrook, where residents rally to a cause, North County CERT has captured the attention of elected officials like State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth, who says, “One of the hallmarks of a community is the willingness of people to step forward to help each other out, whether it’s freezes or fires. It always amazes me how Fallbrook comes together in times of need.”

Gaining recognition for their efforts has pushed North County CERT into the spotlight, and as a result they are the recent recipient of a $29,500 donation from J-Power USA Development Co., a subsidiary of Electric Power Development Co., which, according to San Diego Gas & Electric, is Japan’s largest provider of electricity.

The money will go to furnish the first of 25 storage containers planned for placement throughout the greater Fallbrook area. Crain explains the containers will be stocked with emergency food, water, a generator, search and rescue radios and ham radio equipment.

Ultimately, Crain hopes to have an individual stationed at some of the locations to spot fires on red flag days.

Crain says they are seeking a grant to fund a paid staff, which would enable them to set up a long-term recovery process that would parallel their CERT activities similar to programs in Poway and Ramona.

Hollingsworth Senior Aide Tom Rogers says that in a disaster, a problem occurs when short-term organizations close down when long-term programs are necessary. Because Fallbrook isn’t a city, it doesn’t have a city council watching this.

“It’s the only way an unincorporated community can go forward. The community has to rise up,” Rogers says.

In addition to ongoing training of community volunteers, stocked emergency outposts, long-range assistance and a paid staff, future plans call for setting up communication locations outside of Fallbrook, such as in Oceanside and Temecula, in the event of another evacuation so Fallbrook residents can learn what is going on in their neighborhoods.

“I am confident together we can prepare and be very useful here and able to help those outside our area as well,” Crain says.


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