Safety CERT-ainly matters to these volunteers

Donning green hardhats and vests, a group of six worked together to lift a wooden platform Saturday morning, wedging wooden blocks under the pallet to pull their victim to safety.

The CERT volunteers practiced their cribbing and shoring skills so that in the event of a disaster, they could safely lift a bookcase or couch off an injured victim.

Fire engineer Jimmy Strack watched over the group at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station as they rescued a rope dummy made of folded fire hose.

Nearby, Strack's mom, Marcia Strack, worked at the same task.

"She's doing a wonderful job," Jimmy Strack said, joking that "she was taught by someone else."

In 2012, CERT volunteers gave about 12,000 hours of their time to the program, according to Matt Brisbois, the department's community preparedness coordinator. More than 1,000 residents have been certified through the program.

Saturday's CERT event drew four members of the Strack-Paskerian clan — a first for the 14-year-old program. Marcia Strack, her sister Liz Paskerian and Paskerian's 13-year-old son Austin each rotated through six posts set up to "drill the skills" of the 120 or so CERT volunteers at the fire station. Among the jobs at each stop included indoor and outdoor search and rescue, and triage drills.

Liz Paskerian remembered a younger Jimmy Strack, who would fly to the Seattle area to visit when he was 9 or 10 years old, before her family relocated to Southern California.

"It's kind of special, " she said. "To see him in his professional field is a treat."

CERT volunteers from Laguna Beach and other Orange County cities joined the event. At one station volunteers would race into a room filled with "victims" of a multi-casualty incident, assessing each person before moving them to a green, yellow or red tarp depending on the seriousness of their injury.

The event was a family affair for the Halphide family. Lifeguard captain and lead training instructor Mike Halphide was at the medical station, while his three children — 14-year-olds Emily and Jackson and 12-year-old Nick — played victims in need of care. Halphide's wife Tracy coordinated volunteers as part of the Assistance League.

Jackson suffered "moderate injuries," playing the role of a victim with a broken arm, while Nick played the role of a victim with a severe leg injury.

"Being that he's a 12-year-old boy, he had many of the scars already in place," Mike Halphide joked of his youngest.

Emily was "dead" for her part in the  triage simulation.

"She was good in character," Mike Halphide said.

Saturday's event was a kind of role reversal for the Stacks. Jimmy Stack taught his mom some of the skills he learned in his six years with the Newport Beach Fire Department, and attended his mom's graduation from the program.

Marcia Strack said she knows that in the event of a disaster, her son will need to help the community and may not be able to check in on his family.

"That's OK," she said. "We have the knowledge."

 lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @LAWilliams30

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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