60 CERT graduates gained valuable skills

Oxnard and other county cities increasing prepardeness of residents

By George Miller

A record bumper crop of nearly 60 Oxnard CERT grads participated in the final exam exercise on 2-21-15 at Fire Station #1 on K Street.


Oxnard teacher Beth Gutierrez learns fire suppression at 2-12-15 CERT class. Photo: CitizensJournal.us)

The CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) approach has been implemented nationwide as an auxiliary civilian resource, when Police and Fire teams can’t cope with large-scale emergency situations, such as floods, fire, earthquakes, etc. Participants are trained in a variety of skills, incluing emergency assessment, organization, search and rescue, triage, rudimentary first aid, (not as a substitute for intensive first aid training), fire suppression and more.

This reporter just completed a six week training course culminating in a final exercise, graduation– and also a potluck luncheon recently. My overall impression was that we could now respond much better to some emergencies as a result, but also gained a better appreciation for the vast amount we don’t know and the great value of our public safety groups- Police and Fire Depts.

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Oxnard FD CERT Coordinator Susan Duenas (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)

CERT is now managed by FEMA, but implemented at the city level, usually by fire departments, which is the case in Oxnard and several other Ventura County jurisdictions. The Oxnard program was dead in the water for several years, until department Chief James Williams recruited Susan Duenas to revive it, which she did very well. The Dept. staffs the courses with top notch firefighters and teaches it in English or Spanish. Some of the English class students are bi-lingual, so a majority of graduates speak Spanish, which is a very big help in a city which is of 74% Latino heritage, per the 2010 census. Separate Spanish and English clases were held, but united for the final exercise, which helped to better simulate reality on the ground in Oxnard.


 Course instructors:

Susan Duenas
Brad Kerman public education specialist
Captain La Russo station #1
Firefighter Martin arson investigator
Firefighter Chad Carroll
Battalion Chief  Sergio Martinez
Firefighter Casey Belmont
Firefighter Reyes
CERT Members Jim Milstead and Jim Tucker.

CERT students learn to apply a sling at 2-5-15 class. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)

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Oxnard Firefighters demonstrate how to move 2 ton concrete chunk. (photo: CitizensJournal.us)








Each session had reading assignments, PowerPoint-based instructor-led classroom sessions, with some hands-on work at the latter part of each session. We received hundreds of pages of useful training and reference materials, including the student guide and CERT Field Operations Guide, a handy-on the scene reference, since there is no way we could ever rememneber all the stuff covered in this valuable, literally life-saving course.f

CERT Basic Training Course topics

1. Disaster Preparedness

2. Fire Safety and Utility Controls

3. Disaster Medical Operations- Part 1

4.Disaster Medical Operations- Part 2

5. Light earch and Rescue Operaions

6. CERT Organization

7. Disaster Psychology

8. Terrosrsm and CERT

9. Course Review, Final Exam, and Disaster Simulation

Extra material on Earthquakes, Fire, Excessive Heat, Hurricanes and Coastal Storms,Landslides and Mudflows, Svere Thunderstorms, Tornados, Tsunamis, Volcanos, Winter Storms, Nuclear Pwer Plant Emergencies, Pandemic Influenza

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Final Exercise 2-21-15 

The 2-21-15 final exercise was a big production. The combined English and Spanish classes regukar instructors and other FD personnel brought in to help, plus numerous student family menbers and volunteer rescue “victims” made for a large crowd. The atmosphere was very festive..

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Combibed CERT student team is briefed before 2-21-15 exercise. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)


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Oxnard CERT student team briefed before commencing Search and Rescue operation in “damaged” tower. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)

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CERT students first shut off utilities in damaged tower before SAR. (Photo: CitizesnJournal.us)


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CERT student team leader Sylvia Cates receives direction from Firefighter before starting SAR activities. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)









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Oxnard student CERT team searches for “victim” in dark recesses of damaged tower. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)


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Oxnard teacher/CERT student Carol Miller records search site status/casualties. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)


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Oxnard CERT students treat immediate triage victims. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)


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Oxnard firefighters instruct CERT students on fire suppression techniques. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)

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Oxnard CERT students remove debris off buried victim. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)


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CERT students suppressing fires. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)









At the encouragement of CERT Coordinatior Suan Duenas, students brought in a sumptouous assortment of hearty potluck fare and delicious desserts. After the hard work of search and rescue, triage, firefighting and more, the whole group returned hungry, but didn’t even come close to devouring all the voluminous quantities of food and drink, so doggie bags abounded.

Fire Dept. Chief Williams did the graduation keynote speech, while Susaan presided over the graduation certificate awards in a very crowded room.

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Oxnard CERT students brought dozens of hearty meal courses, desserts and drinks. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)


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Many students’ family members were present for the 2-21 Oxnard CERT exercise. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)










MilsteadJimCERTMember Jim Milstead

We interviewed Oxnard CERT member Jim Milstead, who is heavily involved in CERT, has been an Incident Commander, trainer, volunteer firefighter, volunteer ambulance squad member, responsible for emergency teams in multiple industries, including chemicals and explosives. He is currently a Shop Floor Supervisor at Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense company. We have observed that Jim is very active in local affairs, including his neighborhood council and often attends and speaks at City Council meetings.

Jim was pleased with the class, pleased with the high quality of Fire Dept. instructors and especially pleased with the record number of graduates of this winter’s classes, nearly 60 people. But, the city only has about 150 CERT members at present, way too few for a city of 200,000+ people. Now that Susan Duenas has revived the progarm, with the Chief’s FULL supoport, that should be corrected.

Mr. Milstead would like to see local CERT grow much more. For comparison purposes, he told me that an old school buddy is involved in Benicia, CA, a city of only 26,000, but which has 479 CERT members.

He would also like to see more formalization of the CERT organization, even down to the neighborhood level. He laments that graduates of one class don’t even know who other class graduates might be, even in their own neighborhoods. He also envisions having monthly meetings and ongoing Fire Dept. training, to maintain and improve members’ skills/preparedness.

When asked how CERT can be mobilized, he told me that sort of a reverse 911 system is used, to alert members by phone, identify the emergency and where to report to help. It occurred to me that a back-up system might be needed in case a major emergency put the phone systems out of action.  Jim agreed that another thing needed is a mechanism  to help ensure that member contact information is kept up to date. He would also like to see the CERT training classes employ a larger percentage of hands-on vs. classroom training and ensure that every student tries everything at least once.


 Next Class April 15: For more information or to sign up for the next CERT class, contact Susan Duenas in the Oxnard Fire Dept. at 805-385-7717 or [email protected].

 Oxnard FD Press Release:

Feb 24, 2015
Nearly 60 Oxnard Community Members Graduated from the Community Emergency Response Team Program on Saturday, February 21st

Two Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) classes came together on Saturday, February 21st from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at Oxnard’s Fire Station 1 to participate in a final exercise before graduating from the program. The drill provides CERT participants an opportunity to practice all of the skills they learned in the six-week CERT training program.

One of the classes was for English Speakers, and the other was for Spanish speakers. For the exercise, the two classes were mixed together and broken into three groups that rotated through three stations. One station required that they demonstrate their fire safety and suppression skills. Another station gave them an opportunity to practice lifting and cribbing to rescue a victim trapped under debris. The final station required them to enter a tower, locate and triage victims, transport them to a medical area and begin first aid. Four members of the Oxnard College Theatre Club, along with a number of other volunteers, played the role of the victims to provide a sense of realism.

The free CERT training is taught by Oxnard Firefighters and focuses on teaching community members how to be self-sufficient after a disaster strikes. Skills taught in this series of classes include disaster preparedness, fire extinguisher training, disaster first aid and triage, and light search and rescue techniques, and disaster psychology.

The next series of CERT classes will begin on April 15th. This class will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Wednesdays for seven weeks. Most of the classes will be held at the Fire Administration, located at 360 West Second St. The next class to be held in the evening will begin in September.

For more information or to sign up for the next CERT class, contact Susan Duenas in the Oxnard Fire Dept. at 805-385-7717 or [email protected].


Participant manual: http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1839-25045-8729/pm_combined.pdf

Manual Hazard Annex: http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1839-25045-7541/pm_hazannex_combined.pdf

Instructor guides: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/27368



George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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