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First Responders in Your Unknown Hour of Need

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“With the disasters we’ve been seeing lately—hurricanes in the Gulf and an earthquake in Mexico—it’s a reminder that people need to be prepared for a disaster. A disaster can happen any time,” said Santa Clara Fire Department (SCFD) Captain Jon Boucher. “People should be prepared.”

Boucher heads the City’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Citizen’s Academy program. Begun in 1995, the 21-hour CERT program has trained an estimated 1,500 Santa Clara residents to be first responders in their homes and neighborhoods until professional help arrives.

The training promotes individual household and neighborhood self-sufficiency. It covers safety, awareness, preparation, utility control, fire suppression, basic medical care, damage assessment, light search and rescue, communications and CERT team management.

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To keep her skills honed, Santa Clara resident Alma Guillot has taken the CERT training four times over the past eight years.

“If you haven’t taken the CERT training, I highly recommend that you do,” said Guillot. “The training is excellent and the instructors are both personable and professional.”

On Sept. 15, Guillot and other CERT volunteers participated in a “shelter in place” practice run, guided by the Red Cross, at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The mock shelter set-up covered the five areas of a shelter: registration, dormitory, food, medical and communications. The volunteers worked alongside members of the SCFD, Santa Clara Police Department and Salvation Army.

Three SCFD firefighters were part of a team of 80 professional first responders who headed to Florida Sept. 8 and 9—some by truck convoy with 60,000 pounds of search and rescue equipment and others by plane—to conduct water rescues during hurricane Irma. Some of the task force members had just returned from Texas—hit earlier by hurricane Harvey.

They are part of California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3, a search and rescue team of Bay Area and Northern California firefighters sponsored by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (www.menlofire.org). It is one of 28 such task forces sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Eight of these task forces are based in California with two in the Bay Area.

California State Senate Resolution 40, co-authored by Senator William Monning from Central Coast Senate District 17, established Sept. 23 as California First Responders Day. The resolution pays tribute to the peace officers, firefighters and medical personnel who risk their own safety to aid and protect others.

“I encourage you all to join me in expressing gratitude for first responders in our communities,” said Monning. “Each and every one of these brave men and women deserve our respect, admiration and thanks.”

For information about CERT training, visit the Santa Clara city website:

www.santaclaraca.gov/government/departments/fire/community-resources/cert-community-emergency-response-team. Training, which takes place at Fire Station 2, is offered four times a year for a small fee that covers materials. The next class begins Oct. 25. A free, three-hour disaster preparedness course also is offered that day.

“In the Bay Area, we’re at risk for a major earthquake, and a little preparation will go a long way towards keeping residents, families and neighborhoods safe,” said Boucher, who encourages neighbors to sign up together for CERT training.

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