Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Pala boasts county's first bilingual CERT program

Pala Reservation is the latest North County area to be equipped with its own Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Unlike prior CERT groups that have been established, this group of 64 is comprised of both English and non-English speaking individuals.

The Inland Valley CERT members graduated from their training program on November 21 after being sworn in by Pala Fire Chief Doug Moriarty.

During the training sessions, translators helped the group learn disaster preparedness, basic fire suppression, first aid, incident command systems, search and rescue, psychological aspects of first responders and terrorist awareness.

“I always knew there was a need [to offer emergency preparedness material in Spanish],” said CERT instructor and coordinator James Beebe. “In other CERT classes, we have had a handful of Spanish speakers and one interpreter.”

Pala’s Tribal Council approached Beebe, asked him to help put together a class for their community and offered its new $2.5 million fire station for CERT training.

“They gave us the tools to do this right,” said Beebe. “

want to survive through education.”

Almost 100 residents attended the first class, and over 30 had to be turned away. The classes were “active and lively,” said Beebe, who is known for rewarding CERT students by throwing candy during question and answer sessions.

“You could tell the people who came wanted to learn,” said Beebe. “They had a lot of questions and were honestly thankful for the classes. I got a lot of hugs at the end of class. It’s these kinds of classes that make it fun to teach.”

This group had 21 non-English speakers, causing Beebe to believe they were the “most diversified” group he has ever taught.

“This is a group that is overlooked during other fire campaigns,” said Beebe. “They have never had that much attention. Now they are learning what benefits come with proper training.”

The group’s response to the CERT training overwhelmed Beebe.

“I’m blown away by the motivation of these people,” said Beebe. “We had the full support of the community, and it shows.

Chairman Robert Smith and the Pala firefighters are excited about this group.”

In order to continue their emergency preparedness education, Inland Valley CERT will hold monthly update sessions to reinforce what they have already learned.

Beebe said the sessions will be “proactive,” and help CERT members prepare for wildfires, instruct them on proper shelter construction, and coach them on situational awareness of terrorism.

“This will keep their skills sharp,” said Beebe.

The next Inland Valley CERT class will commence on January 9. For more information, visit http://www.inlandvalleycert.com, which will be up and running in February.

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