The CERT Experience


I recently had the pleasure to complete a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team ) class offered by the Vallejo Fire Department.  After 6 weeks of class every Tuesday evening which totaled 28 hours of instruction, demonstration and practice, that all came to completion on a beautiful Saturday morning on Mare Island with a final written exam, practical/drill and the breaking of bread between us new team members and our firefighter instructors.  

The instructors were fantastic, all of them seasoned veterans sharing their years of experience and knowledge.  The CERT program coordinator for Vallejo is Captain Eric Strom who is an excellent instructor, very good speaker who’s easy to listen too with a great sense of humor.  Not once did I feel bored or lulled into a nap, but that also could have been due to the robust firehouse coffee.  Captain Strom had a fantastic support group of fellow first responders as instructors; Battalion Chief Cliff Campbell, Captains Morty Culverwell and Art Gonzales and Engineer Ben Hill were all just as captivating and that’s what makes the course so worthwhile.  You are not only learning the materials in the course guidebook on what to do, which is pretty much black and white but you’re getting first hand accounts of actual real life incidents from first responders and what their thought process was on how they handled a situation.  You learn a lot including about our city fire department and you develop even more respect for what they deal with on a daily basis.  You also can network with other Vallejoans taking the course and build bridges.

godzilla I highly recommend the course.  Why should you take it?  The reality is cities of all sizes struggle daily with their budgets and the cost of firefighters, police, infrastructure repair & maintenance, parks and recreation, public transit, administrative staffing, courts, pensions and lawsuits.  The level of city services are not what they once were and that includes the number of police and fire on duty.  That means for those of you who live in areas where natural disasters can occur, like tornadoes in Oklahoma, hurricanes in Florida or earthquakes in California, when they happen, you and your family could be on your own for a few days if not weeks waiting for gas, water and electricity to return along with other services.  In Vallejo there are only 21 firefighters on duty each shift, that means in the event of a severe quake, they would be tied up responding to the hundreds of calls they would receive after.  Depending on the conditions of the roads in and out of town, additional off duty first responders could be greatly delayed if at all able to get here. The hospitals will be flooded with all kinds of injuries from walking wounded to severe trauma.  This mean you will have to shut off your own gas and water if needed as the fire department responds to the areas hardest hit and/or where fires may be happening.  It means that the fire department will use their resources the most efficient way possible to save the most lives.  So your son’s broken arm may be an immediate priority to you, but the burning seniors center will be the priority to them.



“Main Street, USA” Where search and rescue drills are conducted.

We were lucky in this town for the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 but we sure got a wake up call from the 2014 Napa quake and this program teaches you how to be prepared by putting together a disaster kit, emergency supplies and how you can take care of yourself, family and then neighbors, like a broken arm, after a disaster, allowing firefighters to concentrate on the higher priority calls.  It’s like car insurance.  You hope you never have to use it but if you are in an accident or it’s stolen, you have piece of mind.  Same with the disaster kit.   You hope you never need it but nice to know it’s there.

You can take what you want out of the class.  Self preservation after the big one, doomsday preparation but I think the intent is to help develop a sense of community.  All to often you don’t know a neighbor until something bad like a disaster comes along.  Sure you nod or wave at each other but how well do you know them?  Are they frail, do they have physical limitations or other factors that limit their mobility.  Do they live alone and will they need assistance in an emergency or do they have skills that can help everyone in the neighborhood?   Don’t wait for the next disaster to meet them, get to know them now before you’re thrown together into a blender cause the anonymity happens.  My wife and I had lived in our first apartment together for 8 months before I was transferred to the bay area.  The day we were moving,  the woman who lived in the apartment next door came out and asked if we were moving in.  Never did get her name.

Don’t know when the next class is scheduled to happen but if you’re interested it may be a good idea to email secretary, City of Vallejo, Fire Department, Fire Prevention Division: Shirley.Herbert@city of  and let her know you’re interested in taking the next class. 

Next installment we’ll take a look at putting together an emergency supply chest.
















Just Putting It Out There – Survival Chest Project



On Sunday at 3:20 a.m. we were shaken out of a sound sleep as our bed suddenly became a wild carnival ride. Being less than 10 miles from the quake center lamps were knocked off end tables, pictures fell and furniture was rearranged. We were very lucky as our only losses were a flower vase, a candle holder and 4 beer bottles from my bottle collection. However closer to the epicenter in the city of Napa some weren’t as lucky as they have lost their home or their business. When disaster strikes you are never really ready for it but you can prepare and increase your chances of survival by putting together a survival chest and even though this article was originally written and published for the workplace it can also just as easily be done in any home.

A cool family project or a great team building exercise whether your are In the process of forming a safety committee or have one already established. Preparation for a disaster. It sounds worse than it really is but the truth is earthquakes and tornadoes don’t make appointments and can strike at any time. Depending on your location and the severity of the disaster First Responders may not be able to get to your location for some time so be prepared and have the team assemble a survival chest. Start by working together on creating a list of items to include in the chest. What should you include? Flashlights, batteries, water, food, candles, radio, blankets, matches, sleeping bags, first aid kit. What else would you include for your survival? If you live in California I’d also add a wrench to turn off the gas if needed. These suggestions should help get you started on what to include now determine how many days and the number of people you want the survival chest to support, then make sure to keep an inventory of what’s in the chest and what items if any have expiration dates and are perishable and when to replace. Then you can also decide where to keep the chest and who in the case of the workplace holds the keys. In a recent survey conducted by Staples’ (click here to see the article) only half of employees felt their company is prepared for a disaster. Put your employees at ease, heck put yourself and your family at ease and make sure you’re ready for an unexpected disaster.


If you need assistance or have questions about a survival chest or about forming a safety committee I’m here to help, please don’t hesitate to contact.

A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume IV-Emergency Ready

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Google Image

Well here we are folks, more than half way down the Green Brick Road of Safety.  It’s been an enlightening trip for me as well and I want to thank you all for the positive responses and great comments on this series on warehouse safety.  As I’m sure you remember, we had previously been introduced to Hazard Analysis, PPE and Housekeeping – The big three segments of workplace safety.  So, after all this is there still more ways to protect your employees?   Yes there is and it’s called Emergency Preparedness.

You’ve gone through all this effort to protect your employees on a daily basis so make sure that in the event of a sudden catastrophe you can move them out of harms way by the most expeditious manner  possible and having an emergency preparedness / evacuation plan is the way to ensure this.

Whether you call them disasters, calamities, catastrophes or emergencies they are nasty little events that usually come out of no where and depending on what part of the country your warehouse is located, they can come in various sizes or forms.

Natural Disasters – Earthquakes, Forest Fires, Blizzards, Flooding, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Tropical Storms.  With some of these there is enough warning time to prepare and react but in the case of earthquakes there is no such warning.  Some of these disasters lead to others as Hurricanes can create flooding, lightening can create forest fires and Tornadoes & earthquakes can also lead to fires.  In each case they should be taken seriously as you never know the extent of damage that will occur.

PREPARATION – Know the evacuation route and meeting place.  Know what ever the emergency signal sounds like.  Is it a whistle, alarm bell?  Where is the disaster provisions locker?  You don’t know how long it will be before you can either leave the area or help will be able to get to you so having an emergency provisions locker filled with bottled water, food, first aid kit, blankets, flashlights, radio, batteries and other provisions can come in handy.  In earthquake country it’s also a good idea to have a wrench in the kit as well and know where all, the gas shut off valves are located.  Creating, organizing and replenishment of a provisions locker is a great team project for a safety committee or even for the whole company. 


Man Made Disasters – (Human error) – Chemical spills, gas and other toxic fumes released, excessive dust, explosions, fires, oil spills and potential exposure to other lethal items.  In some cases these can be even more devastating than a natural disaster since the area contaminated could be unusable for years, especially if the contaminants make their way into ground water or destroys natural habitats for wildlife.  The BP spill as well as the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 are examples.

PREPARATION – Again listen and know what the emergency signals sound like and indicate.  Is the alert telling you evacuation or shelter and place?  If it’s evacuation, know the evacuation route and meeting place.  If it’s shelter and place find the designated location and close all windows, air ducts, ventilation vents, doors and any other opening to the outside.  Also use duck tape and plastic to seal them all to further prevent any fumes or gases coming in.  This is another project the safety committee can work on with employees, developing and stocking small kits for shelter and place rooms with plastic sheathing and duck tape.

When it comes to any kind of liquid spill the safety of staff is the most important issue.  If it’s a large spill or excessive amounts of toxic gases GET OUT OF THERE and let the professionals deal with it.  However for smaller size spills make sure you know where the spill kit is located and should only handle a spill containment/cleanup if you’ve been properly trained.  A spill kit usually includes booms to contain it and absorbants to soak it up.  There should also be a MDS book (material data sheets – list the properties of chemicals and other materials on site, how to treat for exposure and how to handle) located nearby and clearly labeled and posted so anyone can find it.  It is critical that the MDS book be kept up to date as well.  (You can get more information about spill kits and other related items from Spill 911.)


Medical Emergencies – Self explanatory.  Heart attacks, broken bones, head trauma, sprains and cuts.  Anything where a person is physically injured at the workplace.

PREPARATION – Know the company policy for handling emergencies.  Some companies just advise you to call 911 immediately.  Some companies have trained employee response teams who you should contact at the number specified by the company.  They are trained in CPR and first aid and can determine how serious a situation is and how to handle it.  This is another opportunity to get employees involved with safety by offering CPR and first aid courses and allowing them to rotate on response teams.  This can be done through your local Fire department or Chapter of the Red Cross.  The same goes for dealing with fires.  Use your common sense and training.  If the fire is too large let the professionals handle it, but for smaller fires know where the extinguishers are located and know how to use them.

Evacuation plans and Shelter and place locations should be posted through out your facility  indicating the best route to follow for escape from your present location.  Review it and make sure the route doesn’t encounter any obstacles delaying evacuation.  All the offices or buildings designated to be used for Shelter and place should also be clearly marked with signs.


Don’t wait until some disaster is in the news before you think about what would happen where you work if it hit!  It’s just as good a time now to review your general safety disaster plan and company’s procedures for handling emergencies.  Your company should at least have an annual fire/evacuation drill or an emergency preparedness drill.  I worked for a short lived dot com company, and even though  they held an annual evacuation drill, someone thought it was a great idea to hold it on April fools day when ever it fell on a work day.  Most of the employees just rolled their eyes with annoyance and kept working.  This is NOT the reaction you’re looking for.

Remember if you make any changes at the work place like new walls, new rooms, new racking and storage, installation of new equipment, or any physical changes review your evacuation plans and make sure it works.

Well that completes this portion of our journey on the GREEN BRICK ROAD OF SAFETY.  Glad you joined us and enjoyed the trip.  We still have just a little further to go so please watch for Volume V.  (Don’t miss an issue – just enter you email address on the bottom right and get a new freshly pressed article as soon as it’s published).