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April 2, 2008 > Community emergency response

Community emergency response

By Sam Rao and Anuja Seith
Photos By courtesy of Sergio Morariu

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is calling, Are you ready? Become a part of the CERT program in your area and be prepared to deal with any disaster that may affect you, your family, neighbors, or the community. A free program is offered to train residents to respond to the community's needs in the event of a major disaster.

CERT classes in Newark are planned so citizens can become self-sufficient in a major disaster through multi-functional teams. Up to 40 students attend six CERT classes of three hours each on Thursdays from 6 - 9 p.m. Upon successful completion, each student receives CERT identification, a helmet, and vest. An annual refresher drill is held for all CERT alumni.

"The CERT program is designed to get Newark residents trained and to work with city staff and the Fire Department to respond to a disaster such as a major earthquake, flood, or fire. All participants become trained in basic disaster preparedness, light search and rescue, disaster medicine, and fire fighting," said Egbert Vallecillo, Special Assistant for the Newark Fire Department's Fire, Life and Environmental Protection Division and CERT program liaison. Since its inception in 1997, over 600 Newark residents have been certified in the CERT program. The Newark disaster area districts match the eight public elementary schools and Newark Memorial High School.

For more information about these upcoming events, call (510) 793-1400, ext. 530.

Fremont's CERT program deals with earthquakes, terrorism, severe storms, and other catastrophic events. Volunteers are trained to be the first respondents on the scene. Since 1996, the Fremont Fire Department has been working to train community members for CERT through a 20 hour disaster preparedness course based on the curriculum established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"Our community has to step up and get trained to help themselves, their families and the community, not just for earthquakes but other natural and possible man-made disasters," said Vic Valdes, Coordinator for Fremont CERT.

The Fremont CERT Training consists of 15 hours of hands-on class instruction and about six hours of an online didactic section. The course meets one day a week for six weeks. Fremont CERT asks volunteers for a commitment of two years, to annually attend one event for the district and one for the city, and possibly speak at a neighborhood crime watch meeting. High school Students can apply for these training courses toward their required community service hours for graduation.

Fremont CERT classes will start on Wednesday, May 7 and continue on Wednesdays from 7 - 10 p.m. through June 11 at Fremont City Hall.

Fremont Fire Department officials also offer a three hour Personal Emergency Preparedness (PEP) course to go with the 20 hour CERT course. "This PEP course was designed for busy residents, who may not have time for the six week CERT course, and was designed to get the basic emergency preparedness to the residents," said Valdes.

For more information about Fremont CERT programs, call Vic Valdes, at (510) 494-4295 or email

Union City
The Union City CERT program started in May 2001 and is administered by the Union City Fire Department. CERT members receive 20 hours of initial training in subjects including earthquake awareness, hazard mitigation, utility control, disaster fire suppression techniques, and disaster medical operations. The course teaches light search and rescue, hazardous materials recognition. Training culminates with a disaster simulation and comprehensive course review. 2008 CERT classes will start in April. The course consists of four Saturday classes from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Fire Station 1.

For more information, visit Fire Station 1 at 33555 Central Ave or call (510) 675-5470 or email

The City of Hayward offers CERT administered by the Hayward Fire Department within the geographical area of the City of Hayward and Fairview Fire Protection District. Participants learn skills that will enable them to provide emergency assistance to their families and neighbors in the event of a major disaster.

Hayward Fire Marshall John Berg said the "CERT program is essential and important to us and the community. We have had successful CERT programs in the past and community members have shown enthusiasm and taken classes more than once. We encourage more residents to come forward to show an interest in the training. We will also be offering modules of the CERT program to help identify resources within the community and under the direction of the city manager, CERT classes will be offered soon in late spring or early fall."

Hayward CERT also plans to offer personal emergency preparedness classes. For more information, contact Charmaine Giel, Staff Captain at (510) 583-4900 or by email at

The Milpitas Fire Department offers Strategic Actions for Emergencies (S.A.F.E.), a community emergency response team program in the city. "The program started in 2000 to provide community awareness and enable people to deal with manmade or natural disasters," said Sean Simonson, Emergency Manager of the Milpitas Fire Department.

S.A.F.E provides detailed instruction for people of all ages on how to be prepared for an emergency and what to do when the next disasters strikes. This is a free emergency preparedness program created to save lives and reduce property damage by training individuals to initiate mitigation activities before or immediately following an emergency. It is open to anyone who is 16 years and above and lives or works in the city.

Training will be provided in seven two and half hour weekday evening classes and a Saturday morning course review and disaster simulation. The program consists of classroom and practical training for neighborhood groups consisting of 12 to 20 people, and the Milpitas Fire personnel will provide an evening classroom training session. According to Simonson, the course is designed to provide a series of classroom instructional and hands on training in which people usually learn to use a fire extinguisher, shut off gas, First Aid and some CPR.

Classes for this program are offered on Thursdays from 7 - 9:30 p.m. during the time of the course and on a Saturday for the final examination. The next seven class series begins on Thursday, April 17, at Fire Station 1. For more information about S.A.F.E., call (408) 586-2810.

Community Response Classes:

City of Newark CERT:
Thursdays (call for next class dates)
6 - 9 p.m.
Silliman Center Preschool Room
6800 Mowry Ave., Newark
(510) 793-1400, ext. 530

City of Fremont CERT
Wednesdays, May 7 - June 11
7 - 10 p.m.
Fremont City Hall
3300 Capitol Ave., Fremont
(510) 494-4295

City of Union City CERT
Saturdays, April 12 - May 3
9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Fire Station 1
33555 Central Ave., Union City
(510) 675-5470

City of Hayward CERT
Classes coming soon
Late spring or early fall
777 B St., Hayward
(510) 583-4900

City of Milpitas' S.A.F.E. Program
Thursday, April 17
7 - 9:30 p.m.
Fire Station #1
777 S. Main St., Milpitas
(408) 586-2810

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