You need a weekend like the one we had to end September to appreciate why your community needs a CERT team.

by: PHOTO BY: STEVE SIRKIN - People on the floor playing victims of a chemical attack await a drill response team, in protective suits and with oxygen tanks, to assess them and begin moving them along in the triage process. Of course what most folks would ask first is what’s CERT? It stands for Community Emergency Response Team, and quite a few of your neighbors in Clackamas County have already gone through several days of training that prepares them to organize and assist their neighbors when a catastrophe hits. Around here we usually think of it in terms of our worse-case scenario, the 9.0 earthquakes that regularly, if you consider every 300-500 years regularly, strike our area. It is the kind of event that could leave us on our own for days, if not weeks, until overwhelmed first response agencies, with their limited resources, are able to clear priority responses.

For example during the last weekend of September we faced another potential natural disaster, the kind we regularly experience this time of year. It was a series of storms, one of which was a remnant of a typhoon, that were driving wave after wave of severe rain and winds across our community. Trees went down, electricity was out in some cases for days, steep slopes were compromised, and some areas experienced flooding. Old timers, who were here for the 1962 Columbus Day storm, know exactly how desperate that could have been but fortunately, this time, we were mostly spared.

In Happy Valley the CERT team consists of around 30 men and women with a wide range of interest in disaster preparation from those who you might call survival junkies to others who simply want to understand how to deal with a disaster and are willing to commit some time to learning and preparing. Their first step in joining the team was to go online and take the IS-317 “Introduction to CERT” course at; it is but one example of the training opportunities that FEMA offers to citizen volunteers and emergency professionals across the country. The course takes around eight hours that can be completed at a leisurely pace. Once that was accomplished they completed a full day hands-on program, presented by our Clackamas Fire District No. 1, where the skills learned online were applied.

For the Happy Valley team there are bimonthly opportunities for training that, over the past year, have covered diverse topics including practice searches, long-term food storage, radio communications, purifying water and assessing damaged structures. Many members of the team have earned their HAM licenses. The city of Happy Valley often asks for CERT assistance to support community activities from Relay for Life to their Fourth of July Festivities, events which are also opportunities to reinforce skills in communications and working together. Efforts are moving forward to establish a youth CERT team. Happy Valley CERT members, along with others from across the county assisted in the recent regional Pace Setter drill that brought in emergency response agencies to deal with an act of chemical terrorism at Camp Withycombe.

Individuals from who are interested in more information on CERT can check it out on the FEMA websites or contact Clackamas Fire Emergency Manager Gregg Ramirez at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Those from Happy Valley are encouraged to contact Happy Valley’s CERT Coordinator Steve Sirkin at 503-454-0610 or by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contract Publishing

Go to top