This blog is not sponsored by the Kern County Fire Department and should not be construed as official communication.

Monday, January 20, 2020

CERT Basic Training: Damage and Joy

Bakersfield Metro CERT has just finished a round of CERT Basic Training and I'm feeling some damage and a lot of joy.

For me, it was an annoying, worrisome, exhausting, but wonderful experience.

The process began—as ANY CERT Basic Training should—with a lesson plan. Opening up the binder and winging it isn’t professional.

To instruct well is to know the content well and to deliver it thoughtfully and engagingly, or at least die trying.

After a prototype lesson plan existed, a call went out to our trainers inviting them to look at the lesson plan and weigh in on (1) whether they wanted to instruct and (2) what they felt they’d like to instruct.

I was fortunate to have Kern County CERT Coordinator Jeannie Taylor as my co-instructor—and I am thankful for her presence and guidance—along with Bakersfield Metro CERT DSWs Bob Belcher, Andres Torres, and Derek Dingee who were present and added their experience to the flow.

Together, we did our best to make the 20 hours worth the time.


The CERT Basic Training course assumes ready access to all sorts of realia (props, hands-on materials, and other necessities) and schlepping those items to the training site is a job in itself.

Jeannie had a vehicle load of stuff in addition to the stuff I had, which stuffed the rooms we were using.

Then storing them appropriately at the training site is another job entirely.

We were fortunate to have the use of Frontier High School for three days (Friday evening, and all-day Saturday and Sunday).

And, when you are a guest at a facility such as a school, before you leave, the stuff has to be put away, classrooms must go back to the state they were in, so no one is the wiser for what went on.

On my to-do list is to get Jeannie Taylor on building us a multi-million-dollar CERT Basic Training facility with easy freeway access and possibly with valet parking and a barista so that schlepping things around won't have to happen.

And given how Gordon Ramsay can totally renovate a restaurant in 24 hours, I'm sure that Jeannie can get the facility built by the time we train next.

[Insert laughter here.]


Worry is what we do to catastrophize what hasn’t happened yet.

Will those who arrive find the training beneficial and engaging?

Will the technology work?

Friday and Saturday the technology worked fine, but we were in a different classroom Sunday morning and the technology did not seem to want to cooperate at 07:00, but I had until 09:00 to make it all seem effortless.

I texted the teacher who allowed us to use his room to ask what that magic elixir was necessary to coax the technology to cooperate.

In the 13 minutes of lag time—early on a Sunday morning—that it took for my good friend to respond, I created a Plan B with Chromebooks and streaming the Google Slide show to them.

Yes, we’re using Google Slides because they are so “3008” and PowerPoint is so “2000 and late”. 

[The Black Eyed Peas were on Pandora as I was working on the issue, so boom, boom, pow.]

Then, my friend called and clued me in to the crankiness of the technology and how to make it work. All was well.


My day on Friday began at 05:00 and sleep happened at 22:30 that night so that I could be up at 05:00 on Saturday with a 23:00 bedtime to follow with another 05:00 on Sunday.

Mix into that dinner out with a great friend who is always a welcome repast and my mind was moving 100mph the entire time.

My exhaustion isn't a complaint, but a statement of fact.

And when your time is so sharply focused, you will inevitably let down those you love in some way.

I’m not a long sleeper and, while sleep deprivation was a factor, the mental exhaustion of tending to every aspect of the weekend was considerable.

But definitely worth the push and most decidedly worth the outcome.


In the end, we were able to present certificates of completion to Matthew Alvarez-Limjoco, Ashley Candelaria, Rose Candelaria, Robin Galloway, Summer Gibbons, Ray Gretlein, Jacque Johnson, and Charles Wesley.

All of them are people I would want as a part of the Bakersfield Metro CERT volunteers because I was inspired by their passion for the CERT mindset.

They are people that you want living next door to you.

I am crossing my fingers that they will respond to the invitation that will follow in time to complete FEMA IS 100c, IS 700b, American Red Cross Shelter Fundamentals, and CPR/AED/First Aid certification so we can LiveScan them, swear them in, and add them to our ranks.

Whether they do or not, I am thankful to have met them and worked with them in this capacity.

Coincidentally, Frontier High School approved a Teen CERT Club just days before the training, so we had the student leadership team with us Friday night too.


Because the CERT Basic Training curriculum is so dense with information—and a significant portion that is either extraneous or just not a part of the mission in Kern County—and because the FEMA PowerPoints are precisely what NOT to do with PowerPoint (i.e. make them jammed with text to be read to people who can read), moving with a rhythm is absolutely essential.

But we were still with the old curriculum on this training and have not had the opportunity—as a county—to configure our countywide implementation of the new curriculum.

That effort begins next week.

Of course, all is not lost given that the old curriculum is masquerading as the new curriculum, but we still have to dive in and reconsider.

We cannot take anything out of the training but we can add in.

I added in some strategies in the Disaster Psychology section that can be used to work with people who are highly agitated in the aftermath of a disaster to get them back into their thinking brains rather than their emotional, reactive brains.

But, most importantly, these three days were a good moment in my life both professionally and personally.

And for that I am thankful for everyone who was in the room.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Lee Prewett, Program Manager
Bakersfield Metro CERT

Sunday, January 12, 2020

CERT: Is It Beneath You?

CERT isn't beneath me and I'm not that important.

Yeah, it's beneath my skin and in me. 

Yeah, it's beneath all of the decisions I make these days.

But, I'm also not that important in that, if deployed, the people I'm helping--in whatever capacity--are more important than I am.

I'm not there for the "shine".

My grandfather taught me to be wary of people glorify themselves first.

Not everyone in any context comes with the purest of intent, authenticity, or even honesty.

But, we all have come across such people and they are draining.

I don't suffer such people easily.

Recently, I enjoyed a discussion in the CERTverse involving a what-if scenario of person on a deployment who states that they are “stuck in a role” that was assigned to them.

The responses--predictably--demonstrated a variety of "perspectives".

The preponderance of the responses were honorable and sensible saying "just put a smile on your face and do that role to the best of your ability".


But a few prima-donna responses sounded like "Why should I fulfill a role that is beneath me?!?!"

That makes their work with CERT about THEM and NOT the people they are supposed to be helping.

Such people destroy rather than build.

Volunteers often are not always steeped in the culture of a hierarchical structure that our sponsoring agencies follow.

Agencies are usually top-down, I-command-you-do organizational models.

Volunteers don't always "get" the concept of "shut your pie hole and follow orders".

As a Program Manager, if my sponsoring agency says the sky is magenta, the sky is magenta.

But, popular psychology encourages people to think that their opinions "deserve" to be “heard” (no matter how idiotic) because they “matter" and so we get people with an overinflated sense of themselves.

Such people are entitled in all the wrong ways and they can be exceedingly arrogant.

That's the dysfunction of entitlement talking and if you're in leadership you can give it no fertile ground on which to grow.

Just because a person has an opinion on the appropriateness of their assignment during a deployment does not make said opinion valid, valuable, worthy of being heard, sensible, or necessary to be listened to.

But, wait; there’s more.

Some volunteers want to use CERT to glorify themselves and they need tiaras to wear with capes for good measure.

And that mindset is, unfortunately, a sad truth that plagues virtually every volunteer organization.

Some of these people volunteer so others will "know" they are "good" people.

But, they do not volunteer because they want to help people.

Thus, if their role isn't lofty enough for their ego, they will cry and say they are stuck in a role.

The "adulation addicts" need their fixes and they become unwieldy and unpredictable when they don't get their way.

Don't give them their way, stay strong during their counter-response, and don't give in to them. 

We don't need them. 

We need people who will be present, help those in need, and not whine about the role being beneath them.

We need people who will quickly and efficiently perform their tasks without drama and do so with humility, kindness, and expect no prize at the end.

The way a deployment must work is that if I am tasked to do something, I shut my trap, do it, and validate myself knowing I have performed well.

Case closed.

The "stuck in one role" is an odd sentiment to hold.

For me, it is a red flag should someone utter it.

And should anyone legitimately feel that way, I would argue that such a notion has no place in CERT.

When we volunteer, we want to fill a need and if we are given a need to fill, no matter how small, that must be the end of it.

The level of the need to be filled is immaterial to psychologically healthy individuals.

It does--however--matter to the selfish people using CERT to puff themselves up.

A person should not assume that even if they have greater capacity than what they are tasked with that they will be automatically "upgraded".

Heck, they could just do an exemplary job even if it is "beneath" them.

It would never be beneath my dignity to be assigned a task lesser than my imagined skill set.

Saying that I am stuck in a role would be me talking and if I'm talking, I'm not listening to the need being spoken and responding to it...which is supposedly why I joined CERT in the first place.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Lee Prewett, Program Manager
Bakersfield Metro CERT