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Mock Disasters Teach Residents to Be Rescuers

They rescued three people trapped beneath earthquake rubble despite the threat of leaking natural gas and a toxic spill.

They doused a blazing couch and a fire caused by a broken gas line. And they tended to 15 people with a variety of injuries in the aftermath of an earthquake.

At drill’s end, the 35 mobile home park residents and members of such organizations as Neighborhood Watch received green hard hats and certificates recognizing them as the newest participants of Oxnard’s Community Emergency Response Team.

The trio of mock disasters Saturday was the final exam for a grass-roots program intended to teach people how to fend for themselves if police and firefighters are overwhelmed in a real emergency.

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“If there’s a crisis or a flood we’re going to be trapped by waters and we’re going to be on our own,” said Port Hueneme resident Kelli McKay, a resident of the Surfside III condominium complex. “We’re in such a far corner of the area so we need to take care of our own.”

The Fire Department’s CERT program is a monthlong crash course in search and rescue techniques, disaster preparedness and reaction and first aid. It began almost two years ago after the Northridge earthquake when residents started inquiring how they should react if a similar disaster struck Oxnard, Capt. Tom Waller said.

“This makes about 210 people who have been through the program,” he said. “I’m looking at 1% of the population to be trained so we’ve only got 1,300 more people to go.”

Other county cities have similar programs, and Ventura is about to implement its own version, Waller said.

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Oxnard’s next session begins July 24. The training is free. Because effective teamwork is key in an emergency, priority for classroom space is given to members of community groups.

Call 385-7720 or 385-8009 for more information.


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