Recently, six community and private sector based Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) from around the region, including one from the City of Burbank, took part in the Fourth Annual CERT Invitational held at the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Del Valle Training Center in Fillmore. Burbank Fire Chief Tom Lenahan joined L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby in greeting all the teams at the opening of the event.
“A key element of this year’s event was the fact that the Burbank Team (along with all of the teams) was able to utilize the Los Angeles County Fire Del Valle Training Center, where they were able to go beyond the generic emergency training props they use on a regular basis and really push their skills and training utilizing the state of the art props and special effects at this training center,” commented Eric Baumgardner, Burbank Fire Department’s Emergency Management Coordinator. “This gave Burbank and all of the teams a truly immersive and realistic experience that they do not normally get with their everyday training.”
Local government’s public safety units (firefighters and police) respond to emergency calls on a daily basis. However, in a catastrophic disaster, these public safety agencies may not be able to respond to all incidents. CERT trains regular citizens in ways to take care of themselves, their family and their neighborhood. They are also taught how to respond as part of an organized team to support their community in time of crisis.
The CERT Invitational allows these organized CERT teams to test their emergency response skills in a friendly competition, while building a sense of camaraderie amongst these teams from various jurisdictions. Each team trains in a slightly different manner following a standardized national curriculum; this event allows these teams to train together and become familiar with the other jurisdiction’s team members and methods of responding before the real crisis occurs. Teams compete in six skill stations: Command & Control, Search & Rescue, Cribbing, Triage, Medical Treatment and Fire Suppression. Their capabilities are tested in real life emergency situations with Hollywood-style makeup and special effects.
This year’s event marks the first year the CERT Invitational has been able to use L.A. County’s Del Valle Training Center. Teams were able to practice a real-life scenario on a four-lane highway with an overturned tanker truck and people screaming. Cribbing, in which heavy items like file cabinets are lifted off of people, and the other events all tested teamwork and communication skills in stressful situations.
“The City of Burbank and the Burbank Fire Department are proud of our CERT program and the Burbank CERT team has consistently placed in the top three at each of the annual CERT Invitational competitions,” added Mr. Baumgardner. “Regardless of how any of the teams placed in the event or what venue is utilized, the most beneficial element of the entire event is that teams from multiple jurisdictions and organizations come out together and work side by side getting to know each other and building relationships with other CERT programs before a real emergency happens.”
“We want teams to come out and have fun, but most importantly, we want teams to learn; we want them to be able to go back to their program with new relationships, with new ideas and be able to take the feedback from the cadre of judges to enhance what they already know and do.”
Burbank’s civilian CERT group is comprised of: Joe Arnone, Ardashes Azizian, Mayva Buckley, Gerald Lehtola, Michael Martinez, Scott Noack, Rob Powell, Magda Sellon, Lisa Tabor and Diane Western.The City of Burbank’s CERT team made a strong showing and took third place in the event, with second place going to NBC-Universal’s Squad 51 and first place earned by NBC-Universal’s EMT team.
(Chief Photographer Ross A. Benson contributed to this story.)