Friday, April 10, 2015

Congratulations, CERT 91 & 92 Graduates

Not everyone in Fairfax County can come out to the Fire Academy for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. That's why our committed team of instructors will come to your location, to train your group, on your schedule... all completely free!

All you need to do is get a dozen people to sign up, and provide a facility where we can hold the training (like a community center, clubhouse, or meeting room).

James Sobecke, Volunteer Training Coordinator, passed along updates from two of the most recent CERT classes that took place in the community:
20 students completed the 20-hour CERT Basic training class on March 14, 2015. The class was held in the Tysons area of McLean, Virginia, over eight weekend morning and afternoon sessions of 2.5 hours each.

Seven of the students were members of the National Language Service Corps (NLSC), a Department of Defense program consisting of service-minded volunteers who make themselves available when there's a sudden, short-term need for language skills in support of any U.S. government agency.

All students received classroom instruction and hands-on training on basic emergency response skills, including disaster medical operations, light search-and-rescue, and fire suppression.

CERTs from Class 91 get ready to practice using fire extinguishers in the parking lot. Photo: Carlos Santiso
The last session consisted of a simulated disaster scenario exercise with four stations to test and demonstrate CERT skills. Live victim actors added realism and authenticity to the exercise, conducted in an office building setting.

The new CERTs of Class 91 pose with Volunteer Instructor James Sobecke (left, green shirt). Photo: James Sobecke.

17 new CERTs graduated from CERT Basic Class 92 on April 1, 2015, held in Burke, Virginia, with the support and assistance of the Burke Centre Conservancy. Class consisted of eight weeknight sessions of 2.5 hours each, and eight CERT volunteers assisted with the presentation of this class.

The majority of class members were Burke Centre residents, so they were conveniently training right in their own neighborhood. Also, since CERT training prepares residents to help themselves, their families, and their neighbors in the event of a disaster in their community, having CERT training out where people live makes perfect sense.

CERT students assist a simulated victim actor. Photo: James Sobecke
The class ended with a night-time indoor and outdoor exercise at the Oaks Community Center in Burke, and also featured live victim actors and four skills-testing stations.

Freshly minted graduates of CERT Class 92. Photo: Donna Hosek
If you're interested in getting CERT training for your homeowner's association, workplace, faith-based group, or other community organization, please email James Sobecke at

Please join me in congratulating all the new CERTs!

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