On July 21, Antelope Valley Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) hosted a free community picnic gathering in east Palmdale in Fire Station 131's district. This event was attended by approximately 100 people who saw the invitation in the local newspaper or viewed it on the AVCERT website (www.antelopevalleycert.com). Attendees braved 97 degree heat and were invited to view CERT static displays of natural gas and electric meters, water shutoff valves, disaster preparedness kits and handouts, the LACoFD North Regional CERT trailer and a CERT trailer purchased and maintained by a CERT member. Several training videos and lectures were provided by local CERT-trained citizen leaders throughout the event. Nearly 20 citizens signed up for our Department's next Antelope Valley CERT class, presently scheduled for September.
Hot dogs and hamburgers were cooked by volunteers from the Lancaster West Rotary Organization, who also provided plenty of cold water and sodas. Pizza was donated by the Palmdale Numero Uno Restaurant, and the Lake Los Angeles CERT group purchased a large cake for attendees to enjoy. Sheriff Volunteers on Patrol from the Palmdale Sheriff Station also demonstrated several skills including how to move large animals into trailers in the event of an emergency.
The CERT Program is our Department's largest community outreach program, touching thousands of citizens each and every year. CERT class participants gain a new respect for firefighters and other emergency personnel when they become engaged in this program, which is brought to them free of charge – an amazing accomplishment in these difficult economic times. When our Department is looking into various community programs to retain the support from the citizens that we protect, the nationally recognized CERT program is a great way to show them self reliance in a post-disaster environment, and provides the "hometown attentiveness" each of our community deserves.
Partnerships, such as those through the local Rotary or other community service organizations, can help bridge the gaps that were overcome to make the Palmdale event a successful community outreach. Many organizations look to us for the opportunity to serve and have a variety of resources available. Consider speaking with your Community Service Representative through your chain of command to head up a community outreach. This type of event helps build community awareness and confidence to the public we are sworn to serve.