Friday, September 12, 2014

Fairfax County CERT 85 and 86: First Class

This week, the nearly 70 students of Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team Classes 85 and 86 got their first taste of what it means to be a CERT.

Meeting in Classroom 1 of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy, the students learned about potential disaster threats in northern Virginia, and what the CERT program prepares them for: Doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people in a disaster.

Lead Instructor Steve Willey goes over the purpose and guiding principals of CERT. All photos by Joe Loong, CERT Class 45.
The CERTs of Class 85 also received their issue of CERT gear -- the green backpacks containing protective helmets, vests, pry bars, lights, and other materials they'll be using throughout the rest of the course. (The CERTs of Class 86 will get their gear next week.)

CERT Class 85 students go through their newly issued CERT gear.
Over the next six weeks, CERT students will learn how to safely size up and manage disaster scenes; how to treat and triage injured victims; perform light search and rescue; put out small fires using fire extinguishers; and much more.

Steve Willey in front of the CERTs of Class 86.

The CERT students were also given an exercise -- the details of which I won't reveal, to preserve the element of surprise -- that tested their leadership skills, teamwork, and ability to adapt in the face of ambiguous, ever-changing, and often contradictory requirements.

Confusion reigns during the "Tower exercise."
Who Takes the CERT Training, and Why?

As the CERT students introduced themselves, it was clear that they were a diverse group. There were married couples; former and active-duty Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard members; accountants; defense contractors; government procurement officers; nurses; retirees; and more. Some had prior disaster and disaster response experiences; others had none.

Here's a snapshot of some of the members of the new Fairfax County CERT classes:

Class 85

Name: Mike Cerino

Occupation: US Navy Explosives Ordnance Disposal Technician, retired

Reason for Taking CERT Training: A self-described disaster prepper type, Mike learned about the CERT program from a prepper friend in Washington state. Aware of the threat from terrorism and other disasters, Mike knows from his prepping that you can't do everything yourself, and that you need to build a network of people for mutual self-help, with which he hopes CERT will help.
Name: Heather Selzer

Occupation: Healthcare Attorney

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Heather, learned about CERT from a friend, though is no stranger to volunteering and preparedness. She's an American Red Cross CPR, AED, and First Aid Instructor Trainer, and helped out with the metropolitan New York area's response after the September 11 attacks.
Name: Anne Monroe

Occupation: Office Manager

Reason for Taking CERT Training: In her professional role, Anne has had training in crisis and mass casualty response. She learned about CERT through a co-worker, and wants to gain extra skills, which she notes are good to have.
Name: Mike Dow

Occupation: Information Technology

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Mike also has experience with volunteering and disaster response skills, having previously volunteered with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and American Red Cross. He wants to build his skills in case another incident occurs. Mike, like others in the class, learned about CERT from an emergency communications course from his amateur radio association.

Class 86

Name: Reecie Ford

Occupation: Accountant

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Reecie is attending along with her husband Kent, who works in the emergency management field. The Fords are taking the course so they can better help out in their neighborhood, which includes a number of senior citizens that they'd like to be able to assist in a disaster.
Name: Lynnette Morales

Occupation: Mom

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Lynnette would like to be able to better help her family, which includes several young children, in the event of an emergency. She learned about CERT through a posting on her community's Facebook page.
Name: Jim Peña

Occupation: Cybersecurity contractor

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Aware of recent manmade and natural disasters, Jim wants to be able to better help for the next one. Jim learned about CERT from a neighbor, and he also knows Fairfax County CERT's resident moulage expert, Susy.
We'll try to check in on our CERT classes as they go through their training, and introduce you to more CERTs from classes 85 and 86.

Joe Loong, volunteer Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT, is an editorial content and community engagement consultant. You can email him at

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