By Janet Cruz
October is officially the start of event season in the city of Lake Havasu, which means that when firefighters or police show up at large events, the volunteer Citizen Emergency Response Team or CERT Team n is not too far behind.
“You often see us at large scale events such as the Run to the Sun Relics and Rods event, the Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Bike Races at SARA Park. The team helps by administering basic first aid when needed,” said Bob MacMillan, CERT team leader in Lake Havasu City.
This group of dedicated volunteers are often the first point of contact and spend most of their time helping the community when professional responders are not immediately available. CERT members are also active in emergency preparedness missions.
The CERT team is also responsible for running rehab stations to rehydrate and assist fire or police members when they are in the field for countless hours.
“During a fire, we set up a post and provide firefighters with snacks. We change their air cylinders, give them sports drinks or water to rehabilitate them before they go back into the fire. “This year we have been extremely busy with over 20-25 more calls this year as well,” adds Mac Millan.
The first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was established in 1985 and was used by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department when one of the major earthquakes, known as the Quake land of Whittier Narrows, rocked California in 1987 and was marked as a region-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Soon, other cities and towns across the United States began forming their own CERT teams.
The Mohave County CERT program established its own team in the fall of 1997, and then teams from Bullhead City, Mohave Valley, and Lake Havasu City followed. As of July, the Lake Havasu City CERT Team is now operated under the control of the Lake Havasu City Fire Department. Previously, it was operated by the Mohave County Emergency Response Team.
CERT members constantly train to prepare for any disasters that may arise in the community. From helping out during monsoon and event season to ensuring first responders are refreshed and constantly ready.
To become involved with the CERT team, members complete classroom training offered by a local fire department or agency. Members are trained in fire hazards, first aid, hazardous materials, terrorist incidents, search and rescue, and disaster medical operations.
“Volunteers have to take refresher courses and attend meetings,” MacMillian said. “or they are out of the group.”
In early January 2015 the CERT team assisted in the operation to recover pieces of London Bridge which were forced onto the Bridgewater Canal after a car crashed into the bridge and damaged part of it .
In October 2014, the group also responded to an RV fire that claimed the life of a Havasu resident in the 1600 block of Cactus Drive. CERT volunteers kept neighborhood residents informed and provided water bottles, towels and plenty of support to firefighters at the scene who needed their help.
“We are so lucky to have such an open and responsive fire department here in all that we do,” says MacMillan. “If there’s a scene or job that’s beyond the level of CERT teams, that’s when we definitely turn it over to firefighters.”
MacMillan also said he believes all CERT team members are just individuals who are dedicated to doing work that they all genuinely enjoy doing.