A Zoom remote meeting of the City of Saratoga CERT Leadership Team was conducted on Friday morning, 31 July. Meeting attendees were: Crystal Bothelio (City of Saratoga Assistant City Manager), Jim Foley (Vineyards of Saratoga CERT Division Lead), Jessica Fullmer (Quito/West Valley CERT Division Lead), Brent Hailpern (Saratoga CERT IT Lead, AEC/SARA-CERT Liaison), Peter Melhus (AEC/SARA-SCC-ARES-RACES Liaison and Cox Division Comm Lead), Davina Morgan-Witts (Argonaut CERT Division Lead), Craig Pietrow (Saratoga CERT Logistics Lead), Chuck Rader (Saratoga CERT Volunteer Program Lead), Lori Stafford (Saratoga CERT Medical Ops Lead), and Jeff Walker (SCC Fire Department CERT Program Liaison, AEC/SARA-SCC-OES Liaison).

Four topics were discussed during the videoconference; these were: (1) CERT refresher training during the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) supplies, logistics and the City of Saratoga CERT budget; (3) CERT operations during the pandemic; and (4) inclusion of minors (16 and 17 year olds) in the Saratoga CERT program.

  1. Training
    The last in-person CERT Academy and refresher training sessions were conducted by the Santa Clara County Fire Department CERT Training Team in January 2020. At this time, no schedule is available as to when in-person training will resume. Gracie Hernandez, the Santa Clara County Fire Department CERT Liaison Senior Program Specialist, is awaiting guidance from Suu-Va Tai in the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) CERT Liaison department on State initiatives in regard to CERT training. Once this guidance is available, Gracie will be formulating a plan for both Academy and refresher training.

    In the meantime, in a proactive stance, Saratoga CERT leadership will be sending out a survey to all active Saratoga CERT members soliciting feedback on what training they would like to see and in what format the training should be conducted. Crystal Bothelio and Chuck Rader will then coordinate with Gracie on targeting our city’s training needs.
  2. Supplies, Logistics and our CERT Budget
    Priorities for CERT supplies and operating equipment were discussed. It was determined that our highest need right now is for a reliable longer-range radio to replace our existing very-short range Floureon M-880 FRS radios. A communications working group is looking into what licensing, fees, and paperwork are required, and purchasing options are available, to procure Baofeng UV-5R Dual Band 2-Way radios for CERT field operations on five mobile/commercial bands. This project is moving forward.

    The following decisions were also made: (1) to procure approximately ten “empty” CERT backpacks to allow for the build-out of fully-equipped “to go” backpacks for any potential/future CERT Academy graduates; and (2) to defer procurement of replacement N95 respirators, latex medical examination gloves, and disposable medical gowns (PPE), to “backfill” those items that Saratoga CERT donated to the Valley Medical Center Foundation back in March 2020 to support an immediate need by Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
  3. CERT Operations during the COVID-19 Pandemic
    The Leadership Team discussed a wide range of concerns regarding Saratoga CERT activation during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is recognized that a greater preponderance of our CERT membership are of an age that places them at higher risk of disease. In light of this fact, it is also cognized that some of our CERT volunteers may be reluctant to participate in CERT duties and activities should there be a “real world” emergency requiring CERT activation by the City of Saratoga.

    In an effort to determine how much support that the City of Saratoga may realistically see from its CERT membership in a “real world” disaster, it was agreed by the Leadership Team that Chuck Rader, Jeff Walker, and Davina Morgan-Witts would structure a survey questionnaire to solicit direct feedback from all active CERT members on each member’s willingness and ability to perform specific CERT field tasks if a CERT activation order is issued. This survey will be included in an e-mail message to each active CERT member, to be sent NLT Friday, 07 August 2020.
  4. Inclusion of minors (16 and 17 year olds) in the Saratoga CERT program
    At present, the Santa Clara County Fire Department CERT Training Team allows teenage minors (i.e., 16- and 17-year olds) to participate in CERT Academy training as long as they are accompanied in the training by a parent or legal guardian. This affords the minor the ability to assist their own family in the event of an emergency, as well as provide valuable training that may be of use as that individual proceeds through life.

    The wider question of allowing 16- and 17-year old minors to actively participate as credentialed Disaster Service Worker volunteers (DSW-V) in the CERT program is more problematic due to liabilities concerns involving both the State of California and the City of Saratoga. There may be some leeway in having minors contribute as “intern” CERT members with their duties and responsibilities limited to certain specific (and documented) tasks, under specified levels of supervision. It was agreed that Crystal Bothelio would research the City’s position on minor’s participating in volunteer activities that could potentially put them in some risk, and further discuss this issue with the City of Saratoga City Manager.

The next Saratoga CERT Leadership Team Zoom Meeting will be conducted on Wednesday morning, 30 September 2020, at 11:00 a.m.