OCEANSIDE - Twenty-seven volunteers graduate Thursday, April 17 from Oceanside's first-ever Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training conducted in Spanish.
The Spanish-language training was provided by Oceanside Fire Department Battalion Chief Felipe Rodriguez with the help of bilingual instructors from Houston, Texas. Pala Fire Department and Southwestern Community College District are two regional agencies that already offer the training in Spanish.
The CERT program is an all-risk, all-hazard training, designed to help participants protect themselves, their families, their neighbors and their neighborhood in an emergency situation that may overwhelm conventional emergency services, according to the San Diego County CERT website. This includes earthquakes, wildfires and flooding, among other disasters.
“We are being proactive instead of reactive,” Rodriguez said during a phone interview with 10 News.
There are eight fire stations for 175,000 residents in Oceanside, leaving first responders to depend on residents to be prepared during the first 72 hours for earthquakes, Rodriguez said.
“It’s very important if they speak a different language," he said. "If there is a communication barrier, they could communicate with each other and get some direction until the first responders arrive. Depending on the disaster it could take hours or days for first responders to arrive.”
The program's graduates include residents of La Mesa, Fallbrook, Vista, Oceanside, San Marcos and Escondido.
San Marcos resident Jose Sanchez, 30, is one of them and spoke to 10 News.
Sanchez is in the process of becoming a chaplain and the CERT program is a part of the process.
“That basic training can save people’s lives, like how to use the extinguisher,” Sanchez said. “If we have people that have taken the training and you have a community member who only speaks Spanish how are we going to help them? The Spanish-speaking population is needed.”
For Rodriguez, it is much more than saving lives.
“The more people that we can have trained in our communities the more resilient the community will be,” he said. “We are looking to develop a resilient community that can bounce back after a disaster, that’s why we partner with the people.”
View a video of the Spanish CERT training conducted in Oceanside in February recorded by Jose Sanchez here:
To find your nearest CERT program in San Diego County, you can visit any of the following links: