The White Cross of Trained Volunteers:
A Whole Community of
Public Private-Sector Partnerships
to Support BMP PREparedness, Response & Relief

IAEM Bulletin – September 2013 Online Edition 

By Nathan A. Wolfstein IV, Charity Adviser, Be MorePREpared, Inc.,
and LAFD Captain Stacy Gerlich, CERT Commander

In 2007, my wife had a Lupus flare-up that resulted in her going blind. Among a lot of other things, we realized we needed to be more PREpared for an emergency or disaster. We decided to take the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) CERT Basic course, and that’s when we met LAFD Captain Stacy Gerlich. After we graduated, we continued to prepare ourselves and “inspire others to take the LAFD CERT Basic Training.

LAFD Pilot Program for Neighborhood Watch

In 1986, the City of Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) developed a pilot program to train a group of leaders in a neighborhood watch organization, follow­ing lessons learned in 1985 of an 8.l magnitude earthquake in Mexico City that killed more than 10,000 people and injured more than 30,000. Volunteers were credited with more than 800 successful rescues.

The concept developed involving multi-functional volunteer response teams with the ability to perform basic fire suppression, light search and rescue and first aid. The LAFD CERT Program was born. In the City of Los Angeles, there were 4 million people and 58,000 CERT Trained volunteers. The city needs more trained volunteers in every community. According to the Harvard Business Review, for every $1 invested in preparedness, there is a $4 to $11 savings in response, relief and recovery. Over 65% of citizens are not prepared to sustain themselves for a minimum of three (3) days, let alone more.

The success of the LAFD CERT Program can be mainly attributed to disaster experience and the realization that the community must be self-sufficient. To be an effective component of the response system, volunteers must be trained in basic lifesaving and property protection skills. The following assumptions were made following on-site post-disaster experiences:

  • The potential for disaster exists everywhere.
  • Disasters overwhelm government response.
  • People want to volunteer to help.
  • Volunteers can be trained to help with response.
  • Response and recovery is improved.

In 1987, following the Whittier Narrows earthquake, the City of Los Angeles realized it needed to maintain an active disaster-trained community. The LAFD CERT Program was fully funded and LAFD was given the responsibility to activate a complete Eisaster Preparedness Division, staffed with 32 members. The division’s responsibilities are to prepare city agencies, departments and the community for disaster. Throughout the past 26 years, the LAFD CERT Program has continued to grow and fulfill its mission. The tragic events on Sept. 11, 2001 caused major growth in CERT programs throughout the United States.

CERT: The Cornerstone of FEMA Volunteer Training

The CERT Program is the cornerstone of FEMA, which in December 2011 distributed “A Whole Community Approach To Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action” (FDOC 114-008-1). Then the Center For Disease Control (CDC) introduced the “Zombie Apocalypse” campaign: “If you can survive a zombie attack, you can survive a disaster.” To be PREpared is a personal investment of time, energy and dollars to be MorePREpared is a lifestyle commitment to support yourself, your family and your community.

Today, trained volunteers focus on organizing and leading (the two main attributes of Scouting Rotarians) with individualized hands-on in-the-field presentations and training exercises for volunteers. Direct participation is a key to inspiring individuals and groups to make time to prepare mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually for the day when disaster occurs and the immediate days after.

In April 2013, LAFD CERT Command helped to organize two major “Hands-On Be MorePREpared Whole Community Volunteer Rural Area BMP PREparedness Training and Refresher Events” supporting Teen PREparedness Training and Trained Volunteer Refresher Training. Prevuisly BMP MorePREpared conducted these volunteer training events:

  • The 8th Annual Cahuenga District WLACC BSA Camporee/Cuboree 2013 and 7th Annual Eagle ScoutParents ESP (Emergency Survival PREparedness).
  • The 2nd Annual LAFD CERT Multi-County Regional Refresher at the Tejon Ranch.