CERT training, May 5, 2013. IMG_1761. Photo: Emilie Raguso
A CERT volunteer gives a briefing to a Berkeley firefighter after a disaster simulation exercise, May 5, 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso

This weekend, about 30 Berkeley community members are slated to complete a 20-hour training provided by the city to give them the skills to organize on their own when disaster strikes and ensure they’re ready with crucial information when emergency crews arrive. The CERT academy, run by the Berkeley Fire Department, is a city program that brings free training to Berkeley residents, who can then go on to take more specialized classes and share information with their neighborhood groups. The weekend training program teaches participants how to set up a chain of command structure and organize into key groups with the aim of turning a chaotic situation into order. Training modules include fire suppression, search and rescue operations and disaster first aid. Earlier this year, Berkeleyside reporter Emilie Raguso was invited to participate in the training course. Scroll down to see her photographs from the May event to see what some local residents will experience this weekend. Learn more about the Berkeley CERT program here

Berkeley CERT academy volunteers line up with full gear — vests, helmets and backpacks holding more tools — for their first training day in May. CERT training equipment was provided free to participants as part of the program.
Berkeley firefighter and CERT trainer Brian Alexander talks about academy principles.
In a session on fire suppression, one team fills fire extinguishers with water, while other teams practice related skills.
Participants learn how to use a generator to charge up fire extinguishers with air after they are filled with water.
One volunteer watches the gauge on the extinguishers while another pumps air into the canister.
Once the extinguishers are ready, volunteers practice putting out flames safely.
In another module, Berkeley firefighter and CERT trainer Carlos Rodriguez goes over basic disaster first aid practices.
Participants put their skills into practice during several major disaster scenarios. Here, a team leader (at right) sets the agenda.
Participants split into leaders, groups and two-person teams to manage search and rescue, fire suppression and medical needs.
The fire suppression team gets its gear in order.
Several members begin readying fire extinguishers and wait for the order to roll out.
The medical team takes stock of its supplies.
A search team assesses a structure, then radios back to the incident commander to call for fire suppression.
A search team assesses the damage in a darkened room.
Fire, medical and rescue teams prepare to advance.
Rescue and medical team members transport a “victim” using a carry technique they learned the day before.
A CERT no-no: This participant ends up alone in a smoke-filled building. CERT volunteers are taught to stick with a partner for safety.
A rescue team removes a victim from a building as Berkeley firefighter and CERT trainer Kyl Fleming looks outside.
Two fire suppression team members use the radio to check in with their team leader.
Rescue team members help escort an “injured” colleague outside after he becomes incapacitated as part of the training.
A medical team member watches over several “victims” from the disaster, and waits for firefighters to arrive. In a real emergency, it could take hours, or longer, before professional crews arrive to render aid.
At the ready: CERT participants in safety gear debrief after the disaster scenario.
Firefighters teach volunteers how to build cribbing: a temporary wooden structure to lift heavy objects during urban search and rescue.
Participants use wooden planks and wedges, along with metal poles that served as levers, to raise heavy concrete blocks.
At the end of the training, CERT volunteers who had met Friday, for the most part, as strangers, had bonded through the rigorous program.

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