Mountain CERT in California trains residents of Crestline, Green Valley Lake, Running Springs and Lake Arrowhead to assist first responders in emergency situations of all types, including bio-terrorism preparation and response.
This is not the case for all CERT programs around the country.
“You will find that all CERT teams are not trained for biological response,” Coordinator David Hobbs told BioPrepWatch recently.
In the terrorism portion of instruction, students learn how to respond to chemical or biological attacks to protect their own safety. While they would typically assist responders in other emergency situations, biological threats call for a different approach.
“In an incident, their safety is No. 1,” Hobbs said.
As a result, the training focuses on steps to enhance personal and family security during these situations.
Sheltering-in-place is one step. It involves closing all doors and windows, shutting off the ventilation system, entering a designated room, and using plastic and duct tape to cover any vents, electrical outlets or other air gaps.
“We tell the new people that if they arrive at an incident and see the National Fire Protection Association 704 Diamond that they are to let the professional responders know and leave the area immediately and go upwind of the area,” Hobbs said.
This diamond, divided into red, blue, white and yellow quadrants, indicates the presence of a hazardous material.
Trainees are also briefed on decontamination procedures, such as using cool water to flush the body rather than hot water, which opens the pores for greater absorption of the contaminant.
Instructors also advise residents who are helping contaminated people clean off to avoid physical contact and any runoff water from the cleaning. Blotting the skin dry rather than rubbing it is also important.