Emergency response volunteers honored

Organizers from the city of Newport Beach's emergency program recognized some of their own during an annual awards dinner last week.

Friday's event for the CERT, or Community Emergency Response Team at the OASIS Senior Center in Corona del Mar honored Jan Burns as volunteer of the year; paramedics Bryan Carter and Chris Fanti with the instructor of the year award; Marilyn Broughton and Evalie DuMars with the spirit of CERT award; and the Lido Isle Community Assn., led by Gail Reisman, as the CERT neighborhood of the year.

The men and women received their awards to applause from their fellow volunteers, many of whom came wearing their green CERT vests.

Matt Brisbois, life safety specialist with the Fire Department, also gave a presentation on the state of the CERT program, which includes SERT, or School Emergency Response Team, and BERT, or Business Emergency Response Team.

Since 2000, the program has trained more than 1,500 volunteers. As of fall 2012, there were 902 active volunteers.

"That's a really big number for a city of 88,000," Brisbois said, adding that the volunteers logged in 11,074 hours on the program's web page, though if the unlogged hours were added, the number may have made been as high as 30,000 hours.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also recently recognized the program as the top CERT program nationwide for 2012. The program also received an honorable mention in volunteer integration.

"When I got the call from the associate director of Homeland Security congratulating me that we won the award, I honestly thought it was a joke ... I was shocked," Brisbois said.

The award traditionally goes to large county programs, so it was very significant for Newport, he said.

"We're one of the smallest cities to ever win this award," Brisbois said.

Fire Chief Scott Poster called the CERT volunteers his "green army" that supplements the Fire Department in a tremendous way.

"They rehearse, they train, they drill," he said. "They have supplies everywhere."

The men and women "really help us and give us a very good sense of security in Newport Beach, whether it's on Balboa Island, on the Peninsula, Jasmine Creek, all the different groups," Poster said.

The dinner also included a nearly 40-minute presentation from CERT volunteer Roy Shlemon, a geologist with decades of experience. He discussed the various natural hazards the area is susceptible to, including tsunamis, landslides and earthquakes.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom through the images of post-disaster photos and flood maps. Shlemon tried to fit in a few lines to lighten the mood a bit.

"There's a rule of thumb: If there's a hill, there's likely to be a fault zone around it or underneath it. So for those of you up in Harbor Hills, enjoy."


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