Emergency preparedness training courses open to local residents

Courtesy of Ann Hepenstal
Los Altos neighbors conduct an emergency preparedness drill. The next Community Emergency Response Team training course is scheduled Sept. 11-27 at Hillview Community Center.

Community Emergency Response Team training is open to Los Altos and Los Altos Hills volunteers willing to help their neighbors in the aftermath of a major disaster.

Local governments engage in emergency planning, and first responders such as police and firefighters are ready to help, but residents play a key role in disaster preparedness, according to CERT representatives. In the event of a major earthquake or other disaster, first responders will be inundated with emergency calls and will likely be unable to provide immediate help to local neighborhoods.

That’s where CERT steps in.

CERT prepares residents to manage through the first few days following a disaster, checking on their neighbors and responding to the highest-priority problems first. Training equips participants to assist with evacuation, damage assessment and first aid, as well as to prepare themselves, their families and their neighbors by stocking disaster supplies at home, packing a bag for a quick departure and learning evacuation routes.

CERT participants complete 21 hours of training covering topics such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. They participate in periodic training during the year, with an annual drill to practice their skills.

Community readiness

Los Altos CERT leader Harry Guy and his fellow emergency preparedness volunteers have built up the program over the past several years. They undertook CERT training in neighboring cities, recruited volunteers to serve as CERT members and brought the program to Los Altos. Guy traveled to Maryland to take a Federal Emergency Management Agency class at the Emergency Training Institute, and he encourages Los Altos volunteers to take periodic skills-refresh training.

“Having in place at least a basic level of preparedness for emergencies is so very important, for individuals, for families and for our community,” Guy said. “In this geographic area, we could be hit with a number of possible severe emergencies: earthquake, power grid failure, severe weather event, wildland fire. It’s so important that we have a family communication plan, basic 72-hour emergency supplies and, for business owners, at least a basic business emergency plan.”

According to Guy, emergency preparedness volunteers have added “immeasurably” to the community’s level of readiness.

“The strong partnership between the volunteers, Los Altos Community Foundation, Santa Clara County Fire Department and the Los Altos City Council and city staff is putting our community in a much more resilient position to survive and thrive after a major emergency event,” he said.

Course sign-ups

The next Los Altos CERT course is scheduled 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays Sept. 11-27 at Hillview Community Center, 97 Hillview Ave., with a final class exercise and graduation set for 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 29. To register and for more information, visit

The next Los Altos Hills CERT course is scheduled in March. For more information, visit

Residents interested in learning how to better prepare themselves and their families for a disaster can register for free Personal Emergency Preparedness training, scheduled 6-9 p.m. Aug. 23 at Hillview Community Center. Taught by Santa Clara County Fire Department personnel, PEP is designed to teach residents how to be self-sufficient in the event of an emergency until relief is available. To register and for more information, visit

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit

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