A diverse group of involved citizens recently gathered in the City Council Chamber at Tustin City Hall for the same reason: concern for their well-being and for the well-being of their families, neighbors and community.
Among them was an attorney, a business owner, a crisis counselor and a physician. There was an engineer, military veterans, a college student and a retail worker.
The citizens were in the council chamber to be sworn in as Disaster Services Workers for the Tustin Police Department’s Community Emergency Response Team, commonly known as CERT.
The CERT volunteers have all received 24 hours of training on how to prepare in the event of a disaster, such as an earthquake or fire, and how to provide aid to themselves and others before first responders arrive.
“If we have a significant event, where we need additional resources, we would call on our CERT team,” said Tustin PD Deputy Chief Paul Garaven, who administered the oath to the members who just completed their training.
“You are an extension of the police department family,” Garaven told the volunteers. “You are part of the support system.”
CERT volunteers learn basics of fire suppression, first-aid, medical triage and light search and rescue.
They learn how to make water safe for drinking, turn off utilities and how to set up a command post.
About 130 citizens have completed Tustin PD’s CERT training since the department started the program in 2013, said Joe Meyers, the department’s Emergency Management Coordinator, who oversees the training.
About half of them continue to remain active and earn higher levels of certification in disaster preparedness, Meyers said.
But even those who don’t continue training have enough knowledge to protect their families and neighbors, he said.
“The more people we have out in the community who have the skills, the better,” Meyers said.
Some, such as Michael Bahr, a 21-year Tustin resident, have been CERT volunteers for multiple years.
Bahr said he has helped several neighbors get the supplies needed to be prepared, should disaster strike.
“When it hits the fan, they are going to be looking to people like us,” Bahr said.
Resident Linda MacDonald was a volunteer on the Police Chief’s Advisory Board when she learned about about CERT.
She’d recently retired after 36 years as a computer programmer and wanted to be of service in her hometown.
“I wanted to find a way to give back to the community,” MacDonald said. “It’s given me skills I don’t think I would necessarily have.”
Hilda Mary Plummer has had a variety of volunteer positions for most of her life and said CERT is the perfect fit.
“I love it,” Plummer said. “Everything is just geared towards helping one another and the community and helping the police. We can be the eyes and ears of the police department.”