Q: I don’t know if you can help, but I’d like to help my community and be a volunteer. Are there any volunteer programs in Santa Monica that I could join?

A: Yes. The city of Santa Monica is committed to community participation in the enhancement and expansion of city services. Santa Monica is deeply dependent on its staff and the invaluable support of those who choose to volunteer. Being a volunteer encourages civic pride and provides a personal sense of satisfaction.

There are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities within Santa Monica. Whether you prefer working with children, seniors, or animals, there is a place for you. The Volunteer Program is an excellent resource and can help you find a volunteer position that matches your objectives and skill set. Santa Monica has a Volunteer Directory: Santa Monica/Westside. The directory is a comprehensive listing of nonprofit, human services organizations that rely heavily on volunteer efforts.

To find out more information on being a volunteer in Santa Monica, please visit www01.smgov.net/communication/cityforms/Volunteers.htm. You can also e-mail volunteer@smgov.net to help you find a volunteer assignment that matches your interests and scheduling needs. Fingerprint background checks will be required to be placed in any City Hall-sponsored program.

Q: I’ve heard that some cities have volunteer programs that are specifically designed to assist during a disaster (natural or terrorist related). Other than the American Red Cross, are there any other volunteer programs that would be used for such events?

A: There are a number of volunteer programs that could be activated during a catastrophic incident. Other than the American Red Cross, the one that comes to mind is the Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.).

The C.E.R.T. program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area. C.E.R.T. members are trained in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, C.E.R.T. members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. C.E.R.T. members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

The Community Emergency Response Team concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. Due to the nature of catastrophic incidents, emergency personnel could be delayed in responding to meet the needs of all victims. In 1987, the Whittier Narrows earthquake was an eye opening event that confirmed the need for training civilians to respond to disasters. As a result, the LAFD created the Disaster Preparedness Division with the purpose of training citizens and private and government employees.

The training program that LAFD initiated made good sense. It allowed citizens to understand their responsibility in preparing for a disaster. It also increased their ability to safely help themselves, family members, and neighbors. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognized the importance of preparing citizens. FEMA adopted and expanded the C.E.R.T. materials, making them applicable to all disasters.

If you think you may be interested in this training, you should know that C.E.R.T. training is composed of seven sessions. The sessions are:

•Session I, disaster preparedness: Addresses hazards to which people are vulnerable to in their community. Materials cover actions that participants and their families take before, during and after a disaster. The C.E.R.T. concept and organization are discussed, as well as applicable laws governing volunteers in that jurisdiction.

•Session II, disaster fire suppression: Briefly covers fire chemistry, hazardous materials, fire hazards, and fire suppression strategies. The majority of this session is the safe use of fire extinguishers, sizing up the situation, controlling utilities and extinguishing a small fire.

•Session III, disaster medical operations part I: Participants practice diagnosing and treating airway obstruction, bleeding, and shock by using simple triage and rapid treatment techniques.

•Session IV, disaster medical operations, part II: Covers evaluating patients by doing a head to toe assessment, establishing a medical treatment area, performing basic first aid, and practicing in a safe and sanitary manner.

•Session V, light search and rescue operations: Participants learn about search and rescue planning, size-up, search techniques, rescue techniques, and most important, rescuer safety.

•Session VI, disaster psychology and team organization: Covers signs and symptoms that might be experienced by the disaster victim and worker. It addresses C.E.R.T. organization and management principles and the need for documentation.

•Session VII, course review and disaster simulation: Participants review their answers from an examination. Finally, they practice the skills that they have learned during the previous six sessions in disaster activity.

During each session participants are required to bring safety equipment (gloves, goggles, mask) and disaster supplies (bandages, flashlight, dressings) which will be used during the session. By doing this for each session, participants are building a disaster response kit of items that they will need during a disaster.

C.E.R.T. is a valuable asset for any city or community. If you’re interested in becoming a C.E.R.T. member, please visit www.citizencorps.gov/cert

Community event

Would you like to meet your Pico Neighborhood Resource Officer Mike Boyd? The annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta will be held this Sunday, May 6, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. This year’s Cinco de Mayo Fiesta at Virginia Avenue Park celebrates “La Familia: Generations of Latino History in Santa Monica.” The annual event features some of the best talent in salsa, mariachi and cumbia bands. Home-style cooking and artisan crafts will season the day with culture, while ancestral dances and colorful folklorico showcase Mexican history. 

This column was written by NRO Mike Boyd (Beat 8: Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or Michael.boyd@smgov.net.

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