*CERT: Learning To Save Lives (Part 5)*
By: Hikage
24 December 2003

Tonight's class focused on two new subjects, Terrorism, and Incident Command.

This first subject didn't have anything new for me, though it was a nice review. Seriously! If a group wants to educate a populace effectively, all they really need to do is give them a web browser, and a URL that looks like this:


No, I'm not just blowing smoke, I mean it. Read on and you'll see.

Now the second portion had some very good information, especially since it revealed a real evolution in the chain of command structure since the classes I had last year. Much progress has been made by my CERT program!



"Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

ÑFBI Definition

I'll not get into semantics here, but I do encourage the reader to review the above definition, and not take it as gospel. Though you can bet if the actions are against innocent civilians, then it's Terrorism.


Terrorism Goals

- mass casualties

- loss of critical resources

- disruption of services

All of this is done to spur economic and emotional impact.



This is an acronym used to describe the five categories of possible terrorist weapons.








- numerous sick animals

- report of unusual odors

- mass casualties without trauma

- large number people seeking treatment

- victims salivating, muscle twitching, trouble breathing, redness of skin

To give an idea of what is required look at the back of a penny. Locate the pillars on the Lincoln Memorial. Now, locate the small image of Lincoln in the middle. If you filled up the space between the pillars that image is located in with sarin gas, it would be a lethal dose for the average sized human.


Possible Nukes

Nuclear Bomb (less likely)

Dirty bomb (most likely)

Radioactive Material release

One of first dirty bombs on US soil was the WTC Tower bomb. It used hydrogen cyanide, which was fortunately a bad choice, as the gas is flammable and burned off in explosion.


If you observe an object out of place, or does not seem right.

- don't touch

- move away

- report to authorities

Caution: Cellphones may detonate incendiary or explosive devices!

Get some distance before calling.

Route of exposure for Biological Agents

- Inhalation

- Ingestion

- Skin absorption/contact

The surface area of your lungs, when spread out, could cover a tennis court. Thus, it is a primary route of exposure.


Remember, suspected terrorist incidents are a STOP sign for CERT.

If you are part of the problem, then you cannot be part of the solution.


Lately, alert systems have not been as active as they were immediately after 11 September. This is because it was observed that as teams gear up to prepare (alert system), the public panics and it creates its own terror threat. It can also create a desensitization in the public, resulting in lack of response in the future.

I am not attempting to get into these debates in the article, but these points should be reviewed and considered amongst your own teammates or friends.

In this new class, we saw a video called Shelter In Place. Here are some points from the video.

Shelter In Place (video)

A dangerous chemical could possibly be released in your area.

This could occur because of a train derailment, freeway accident, or plant accident. Chemicals can travel as solids, liquids, or gasses.

They are usually detected via

- unusual smell or sound

- visible smoke, fire, vapor cloud

- irritation, or breathing problems

You should move cross-wind to the spill in order to get out of the area.

Moving into the wind takes you closer, and moving away from it, keeps you in the path of travel. The quickest way out is cross-wind, with the wind blowing on your side.

Safe Rooms

Choose an area that has a telephone, water, and toilets.

Assign tasks and jobs for each family member.

Listen to the news, and other information sources you may have.

Keep duct tape, scissors, towels, drinking water, medicines, toiletries, radio, flashlight, batteries, and your checklist of chores and jobs in this safe room.

If a chemical hazard occurs.

go inside

shut off heaters and AC units

close all fireplace dampers

go to safe room

close all vents, doors, and windows

cover nose and mouth if needed

make area airtight with duct tape or wet towels

stay off the phone

save 991 for immediate emergencies, not information

listen to the radio or TV

when the emergency is over, all-clear can be issued

These same steps apply if you're not at home. Have you looked around at work for what would make a good Safe Room? Have you put items in your vehicle you can use to seal up your vehicle from within, and sit tight for a few hours while some spill is cleaned up?

Many of these comments are commonplace. I did start this by telling you that anyone who follows this website is way ahead of the game. But isn't it nice to see that this information is being disseminated to the public as effectively as possible?


Now the second portion of the class.

Incident Command

Team Organization

ICS System

Unified command structure

Consolidated action plan

Resource management

Integrated communications

Manageable span of control

Five persons to one supervisor

This system came into use in California after the Santa Ana fires. One person is in charge. There is no Freelancing. Each supervisor has five persons (five fingers of fate).

Freelancing leads to people wandering, becoming unaccounted for, injured, and dead. Command structure with one boss keeps people alive and work flowing. True, organization can be bad too, but that's why it must be done properly, and those who are in the field must have the final say in what works and what does not.


Command Center Communications

Dispatcher - CERT Teams

Recorder - messages and records

Logistics - manages supplies and people

CERT Team Objectives

1 Identify scope of the incident

2 Determine overall strategy

3 Deploy resources

As Usual





Size-up is a continuous fact-gathering concept which will dictate appropriate action. See Size-Up info from previous CERT articles.



Gather facts

Assess damage

Consider possibilities

Establish priorities

Make decisions

Take action

Evaluate progress


The scarcest resource in any disaster is Information.


ICS - Instant Command System

This is a system that has worked for many, and is used by my Fire Department. It is also used on up the chain, so that when the County and Army Civilian Aide teams arrive, they are familiar with how things are already being run. In this system, no one manages more than 5 people. Once breaking the Five Fingers of Fate rule, you lose control, and chaos ensues. CERT teams are part of operations in ICS. CERT teams will report to chain of command.



After disaster hits

take care of yourself, family, and neighbors

make your way to staging area (we use schools)

Upon arriving on the scene, you are the Incident Commander.

It is then your duty to set up the following positions:

Under the Incident Commander

- Communications Officer

- Logistics Officer

- Operations Officer

- Medical Officer

No one person of these positions will manage more than five people. This five-person rule applies all the way down the chain.

The position of Logistics Officer is very important.

Logistics Officer

responsible for maintaining flow of CERTs into staging area

and tracking personnel and supplies

As Disaster Intel becomes available

- IC leader must prioritize efforts

- Information will change rapidly, stay in contact

The Logistics Officer will contact Incident Commander, information flows one way, up the chain, Joe Blow does not contact IC, the LO does.

Teams are assigned by the Incident Commander

Document all assignments

What was assigned to the team?

Was it completed?

Note resources used or needed.

What was the outcome of assignment?


- If you don't document it, it didn't get done.

- Make sure documentation does not jeopardize the safety of team.

Four Functional teams in the CERT

Fire suppression


search and rescue


Everyone is responsible for documentation from the moment of leaving their house.

When volunteers show up, send them to the EOC. This is your Emergency Operations Center. For us, it is City Hall.

When selecting your team, remember, each of the four positions needs someone who can write and document. This is how organization remains.

Upon returning from your CERT assignment, forms are handed in to the Operations Officer, then you go take your rest.





Following are brief notes about forms we use. These apply more to the program I am involved in, but may aid you in organizing your own. These forms are exactly what higher-ups in our area will be using. When the County rescue teams, or Army arrives, they will know what to expect.

Damage Assessment Form

Form filled out by CERT member

Form Contains



Hazard (gas, water, electrical, hazmat)


People (possible injured)

Road (access or no)

Incident Status Form


Incident #

Start Time (24 hour clock)

Finish Time (24 hour clock)


Fire/Search Rescue/Medical/Utility Control - check off tasks

Team/Unit Assigned

Team Deployment Checklist


Eye protection

Dust mask





Knee pads


Message Form

Box describing:






Here's an example for the Message Form:

Message Box:

"Alpha team arrived at 243 Oak St. Fire isolated to the garage area and being extinguished. Located a woman underneath a bookcase in living room area with no vital signs (Deceased). A man located in bedroom and assessed as Immediate. Six team members transporting injured male victim to treatment area. Neighbors could not identify neighbors, moved into residence yesterday from New Mexico."

Action Taken:

"Deceased left in building. Entry door marked."

Triage Tag

These tags are used in the Triage Area, not during the on-site

search. Stickers given to CERT units are used for on-site search.

These Triage Tags are the full deal used by most professionals.

The corners of these tags have serial numbers, and are torn off

and kept by YOU, for "chain of custody" of the patient.

Notes for Healthcare Professionals

D - Deformities

C - Cripitis, Contusions

A - Avulsions

P - Punctures, Penetrations

B - Burns, Bruising

T - Tenderness

L - Lacerations

S - Swelling

Please locate the forms that will be used in your Area of Operations.

I hope these articles I have written will assist others in establishing, or advancing the skills of their CERT projects in their communities.

All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright 1996 - 2003 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.