Public Safety

‘Til the Real Thing Comes Along

What’s shaking? How about some practice responding to a real earthquake?

Nearly 140 community-trained volunteers will report to a Spring Valley shopping center Saturday and pretend the big one finally hit our region.  

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members will test their skills for search and rescue, and triage and treatment with volunteers posing as victims inside empty stores. The four-hour training is coordinated by the San Diego County CERT Council, which plans two countywide drills every year to give these volunteers a chance to train with volunteers from other neighborhood CERT teams.

“Countywide CERT drills like this one are held twice a year because without drills like these, those skills can be perishable,” said William Smith, an emergency services coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services. “The drill is an opportunity for CERT members to enhance their skills, learn and apply new techniques and put them into action.”

CERT members will search for injured “victims” in a dark, empty grocery store, two banks and a fast food restaurant.  

So don’t be alarmed if you see officials running and victims lying around the Sweetwater Springs Boulevard shopping center this weekend. Employees of other businesses have also been notified of the training.  

These CERT volunteers will judge triage and risk situations and pass that information to first responders.

The County has 31 CERT teams. Among the teams scheduled to participate in the drill are Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Julian, National City, Oceanside, Poway, Ramona, Rancho Santa Fe, San Miguel, San Diego, Valley Center, Vista, and North and East County CERTs.

As part of their regular training, CERT members work with first responders to learn basic disaster preparedness and response skills, including how to put out small fires, assess a victim’s medical condition, administer basic first aid, conduct some search and rescue, and quickly organize the help they need from other volunteers.  

While there is a fun side to the drill, it is also important to realize that CERT members play a very serious role in a real disaster. They will likely be the first to help when a disaster happens in your community.

San Diego County Office of Emergency Services Director Holly Crawford said involvement in Community Emergency Response Teams is a great way for residents to make a meaningful contribution to disaster response and recovery.  More information about joining your local CERT team


Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact