Duo prepares for potential disasters in Newport Beach

Evalie DuMars and James Ward are volunteers with Newport Beach’s Community Emergency Response Team.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

If a disaster strikes Newport Beach and emergency workers can’t immediately respond to every neighborhood, it’s good to have a rocket scientist and a nurse nearby.

After retiring, James Ward, 86, and Evalie “Evie” DuMars, 73, started volunteering for the Community Emergency Response Team through the Newport Beach Fire Department.

Matt Brisbois, the department’s CERT coordinator, said the two each put in more than 1,000 hours a year for the peer-led emergency preparedness program, treating it like a full-time job.


DuMars said CERT has a simple philosophy: Take care of yourself and your neighbors. That can mean doing chest compressions on a stricken friend during the five minutes between a 911 call and paramedics’ arrival, or stockpiling water for the extended self-reliance that can be necessary after a natural disaster.

Ward said he wants people to be prepared. California has earthquakes and fires. His neighborhood has a natural gas main.

“I think people don’t want to believe something could happen here,” he said.

CERT trains people in first aid, small fire suppression, light search and rescue and human organization. Toward this end, Ward and DuMars’ work includes manning information booths at the Corona del Mar Christmas Walk, teaching peers how to stop bleeding or use an automated external defibrillator, and editing and approving the planning calendar.

“They’re the hardest-working individuals I’ve ever met on a voluntary basis,” said Newport Fire Capt. Carlos Medina. “They’re the wheels, the chassis and the drivetrain of the CERT program.”

DuMars spread the compliment around.

“There’s a large group of CERT volunteers in the community dedicated just like us,” she said.

Ward, a U.S. Air Force veteran, got his start in aeronautical engineering designing the cockpit for the B-70 bomber. He worked in the space program from Apollo 1 through the early years of the International Space Station, retiring out of Boeing in Huntington Beach. He was in the Houston control room during the aborted Apollo 13 mission, which, he said, the movie captured pretty well.


DuMars was a Hoag Hospital cardiology research nurse who worked to better understand the technical aspects of heart attacks. She was also a medical educator who taught international physicians at Golden West College.

She was looking for community-based opportunities after retiring. In 2011, she received a postcard promoting CERT’s classes. She signed up, and her background in cardiology proved useful. One of her many duties now is teaching CPR.

Brisbois said DuMars and Ward have easily given more than 5,000 hours to the community over the last few years, and have also trained city staff in first aid.

“They have devoted countless hours of their own time to make Newport Beach a safer and better place to live,” said Fire Chief Chip Duncan. “They are the ultimate force multipliers when it comes to CERT and community involvement.”

Davis writes for Times Community News.