The last 2 years have given us challenges and opportunities that we never could have imagined.
In 2016, myself and 4 other LA City Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordinators created the Community Disaster Preparedness Foundation (CDPF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, to support the LA City CERT Program and to give our other Coordinators resources and tools to grow their Community Programs.
Most CERT Teams across the US have a non-profit organization because CERT in it of itself doesn’t exist. These non-profits exist as an organization have a board of directors, can own property, make agreements, and can fundraise.
In 2020, the CDPF adopted the Neighborhood Team Program (NTP) that had been created in 2010 by a previous generation of LA City CERT Coordinators.
The FEMA Community Emergency Response Team training was originally created and taught by the Los Angeles Fire Department to teach community members the basics on how to prepare and respond in their own neighborhoods to a disaster.
Generally speaking, there is one CERT Team per city.
Of course, in a City the size of Los Angeles, one single team doesn’t make sense.
CERT does a great job training the basics but requires a commitment level that many who want to participate simply cannot give.
The Neighborhood Team Program was relaunched as a way to expand the CERT training down to the Neighborhood Level and build Neighborhood Disaster Response Teams.
With NTP we fill the gaps that we have seen as CERT Coordinators.
NTP focuses on creating and organizing teams, building the physical and technology infrastructure those teams need to operate effectively and autonomously during disaster scenarios, providing supplemental online and in-person training, and running regular in-person drills to give the hands-on component that brings everything together.
We created a Document Package from scratch designed to be short and easy to read for anyone even if you haven’t taken any training yet and relaunched the website with future growth in mind.
At the start of Covid, the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office shutdown all city volunteer programs. LAFD’s CERT Program shutdown training and all official LAFD CERT in-person meetings, trainings, and drills were put on indefinite suspension.
As of December 2021, these official trainings are still shutdown.
Complicating matters, all of the fire fighters assigned to the LAFD CERT unit were temporarily reassigned to the LAFD Covid Unit and to make things even more challenging, our Captain I and Captain II were both promoted in mid-2021.
But natural disasters don’t take a break as we have seen in the rest of the country dealing with a pandemic AND hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and dust storms.
Until 2020, all LA City CERT efforts were driven top-down by the Fire Department and the CERT Coordinators appointed by the CERT Unit.
Fortunately, as a program managed by independent non-profit organization, not distinctly run by the Los Angeles Fire Department, NTP did not fall under the LA City moratorium. We were able to cultivate support from our Community and Neighborhood Team Leaders and drive from the bottom up.
Without official support from the Los Angeles Fire Department, in 2021, we
Onboarded 9 Neighborhood Team Programs:
  • West Adams
  • Venice
  • Palms / Westside Village / Mar Vista
  • Crenshaw Manor
  • Sutro
  • Alma Park
  • Point Fermin
  • Supported or Hosted 4 Drills:
    • Second Saturday of September Greyburn Drill
    • October: Queen Anne Park
    • November: Venice
    • December: El Sereno
  • Additionally, our 501c3 paid for a business Zoom account which allows us to host 300 attendees on our online trainings.
    Starting March 2020, we have hosted or supported 23 Continuing Education trainings online that expand upon the basic CERT training and ran 16 monthly radio trainings that put our participants into teams and presented them with scenarios that these teams had to work through as if they were dealing with them during an in-person drill.
    Our trainings and drills are open to everyone, free of charge.
  • Dec-2021 – Medical Triage Review
    Nov-2021 – HazMat Awareness
    Nov-2021 – Life in Earthquake Country
    Oct-2021 – Neighborhood Incident Response Teams
    Sept-2021 – Staging Areas and Initial Response
    Aug-2021 – Neighborhood Security and Situational Awareness
    July-2021 – Leading Volunteer Teams
    June-2021 – Light Search and Rescue
    May-2021 – Using Two-Way Radios to Save Lives and Sanity
    Apri-2021 – Medical Triage
    March-2021 – Financial First-Aid Before the Disaster and Earthquakes 101
    February-2021 – Step-by-Step Community Response to an Earthquake
    February-2021 – Street Traffic Control – What you Need to Know
    January-2021 – Organizing Your Neighborhood and Advanced Personal Preparedness
    December-2020 – Neighborhood Resilience and Security After a Disaster
    November-2020 – Neighborhood Team Program
    October-2020 – CERT Forms and the Role of the Scribe
    September-2020 – Leading Medical Response Teams
    August-2020 – Organizing and Leading Successful Teams
    July-2020 – CERT Staging Areas and Initial Response to Disasters
    June-2020 – Medical Triage
    May-2020 – LAFD CERT Zello Radio Network
    March-2020 – Using Medical Standard Precautions to Stay Safe and Healthy
  • As part of our building infrastructure initiatives, we are installing Neighborhood Staging Area Kits around the city. These are were Neighborhood Disaster Response and CERT Teams will go to organize and respond after a disaster. With early support from their Neighborhood Council, we are proud to announce that we have 2 Staging Area Kits deployed in the West Adams area and have Staging Area Kits in North Hills West and El Sereno (LA32) funded.
    These Staging Area Kits have everything a team needs to get started for the first 3 hours of the community response. Maps, a whiteboard, clipboards, pre-defined damage assessment routes, two-way radios, and medical resupply for teams to assess their area and help their neighbors. We will likely need hundreds of these Neighborhood Staging Areas across the city.
    In 2021, we started walking.
    In 2022, we start running.
    We are excited with the passion, drive, and support of our new LAFD Captain II Rico Gross and LAFD CERT Commander, Captain I Dustin Gates and look forward to the LAFD CERT Unit becoming active again and resume official training classes and drills in 2022.
    That doesn’t mean the Neighborhood Team Program is going away. What we’ve built in 2021 only shows how critical NTP is and we only plan to build and expand it in 2022.
    The Neighborhood Team Program isn’t our program.
    It is yours.
    One thing I’ve never been good at is asking for help.
    In order to grow the program, we need your help.
    We need help editing the online trainings we’ve recorded so we can put them up on our YouTube Channel and Website.
    We need help with social media. We have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but we aren’t updating them. We need a social media expert to utilize these channels.
    We need photographers and videographers to come to our drills and document them for our social media and create videos to publish and show what we are building.
    We need an admin assistant to help us track the programs we are running, manage our schedule, and keep us sane as we drive forward into 2022.
    We need help writing grants and fundraising.
    Please consider signing up here:
    Additionally, as we’ve mentioned before, our trainings and drills are free to everyone but we are all volunteers just like you, we don’t work for the City, and our non-profit is not supported by the City nor the Fire Department. We do have expenses:
    • The website and hosting is hundreds of dollars a year.
    • Our Business Zoom account is over $1000 a year.
    • We maintain liability insurance for our drills at the cost of over $1500 a year.
    • The Staging Area Kits cost $3000 each.
    In 2022, we plan to launch a free Neighborhood Team Management Portal that will give us a single and secure place for our community volunteers to sign up and be part of a team, upload their experience, skills, and certifications, and recieve communications from their Team Leaders.
    We plan on launching Leadership Academy to provide our team leaders with critical training on how to effectively and efficiently lead and support their teams.
    We plan on installing community hosted two-way radio repeaters through out the city.
    We plan on launching subsidized First-Aid Training to make certification classes affordable to community first-responders.
    All of the above programs cost money to launch and operate and none of it can be done without your support.
    If you feel the need and desire, please consider supporting the Community Disaster Preparedness Foundation and the Neighborhood Team Program with a tax deducible donation so we can continue to provide these programs to the community.
  • Patrick Botz-Forbes
    NTP Central Bureau Director
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