The La Habra Police Department hosted its final day of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) basic training Saturday at the Church of Christ on Lambert Road, culminating a 20-hour, three-week process that gave local residents the tools and knowledge to help their community in emergencies.
The class provided various skills, including staying safe in disaster areas, learning how to turn off gas lines, basic fire suppression, practicing triage, and light search and rescue techniques. Helping the trainees were several members of La Habra’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) squad, which has 15 members in its nearly two-year history.
Full membership into CERT involves additional training. Members, who are official volunteers of the La Habra Police Department, also undergo background checks.
Lori Hentcy, wife of La Habra Sgt. Craig Hentcy, is La Habra CERT’s team leader. She is one of the founding members, having completed her training in April 2017.
“It’s exciting to know people in the community are taking the reins of being prepared,” Hentcy said of the day’s classroom learners.
David Gonzalez, the police department’s emergency management coordinator, said the department is looking to increase “whole-community preparedness” through CERT.
“That’s done by people taking the training, and now they’re better prepared,” Gonzalez added. “They have a mindset. They’re going to go out and hopefully get supplies.”
The city knows CERT alumni make great neighbors in their communities.
For residents who may need help in an emergency, “There’s no better resource than your neighbor, when they’re trained and ready to go. The goal is to increase preparedness, increase readiness, and increase the community’s ability to respond and therefore be resilient,” Gonzalez said.
Scott and Tracee Barrier of La Mirada were among the residents taking the CERT basic training class. The Barriers said they intend to go all the way and get more CERT training to officially join the La Habra team.
Scott, a retired Army veteran of 25 years, said CERT reminded him of his military training. Being of public service is part of why he wanted to join.
“The more you know, the more you realize you have more to learn,” Tracee added. “We want to make sure we do it right.”
Mike Walsten, a life-long La Habra resident, is a CERT member. The married father of two is a program manager for a technology consulting group and a former Scoutmaster.
“For me, that has always been important, to give to the community when the community is in need,” Walsten said.
Greg Philippon of East Whittier joined La Habra CERT last year. He is married with two sons and is the small business owner of a collections agency. He lives in a close-knit community, and his CERT training will help both his family and his neighbors.
“It’s nice to be able to know that if something ever happened, I would be able to assist,” Philippon said.
La Habra CERT member Vickie Fears’ interest in emergency preparedness dates to 2005, when she helped with the Hurricane Katrina recovery in New Orleans. The retired psychiatric nurse and kindergarten teacher appreciates her team’s professionalism.
Fears said she enjoys spreading the word about CERT when manning the organization’s booth at community events.
“We always find people who don’t know about us,” Fears said. “It’s fun to be out there in the community to teach them.”