UCSB Emergency Services will kick off its free eight-week Community Early Response Team training course this evening to help the community develop effective response skills for large-scale disasters.

The instruction will begin tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Environmental Health and Safety Building 565 and includes several courses such as Disaster Preparedness, Fire Suppression, Medical Operations, Light Search and Rescue and Terrorism and Homeland Defense. The university’s program, taught by both students and professors, aims to prepare staff, faculty, students and the Isla Vista community for emergency situations.

According to UCSB Emergency Manager Jim Caesar, the initiative provides critical situational emergency education.

“The program involves 20 hours of training to teach civilians how to respond in a situation that overwhelms first responders,” Caesar said. “It teaches you to take care of your family, friends and neighbors.”

The Los Angeles City Fire Department started CERT in 1985 after a series of destructive earthquakes in L.A.

Caesar said the county’s Emergency Services divisions co-teach their program with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

“At UCSB we have the engine company station 17 come in,” Caesar said. “In this way, people are getting comfortable in talking with the fire department and finding out what they might be looking for in overwhelming disasters.”

Second-year biology major Sean Swale, a licensed Emergency Medical Technician, said the classes allow him to share potentially life-saving knowledge with his peers.

“I thought CERT would be a fun way to help inform the general public and really help out in the case of an emergency,” Swale said. “I also volunteer for the County Medical Reserve Corps, have my EMT license teach CPR for Red Cross.”

Swale also formed a campus CERT Club correspond with the CERT program. Members enroll in the eight-week program and work in groups to review the class’s material.

Caesar said educating adolescents improves disaster response abilities for future generations.

“I liken it to putting on your seatbelt,” Caesar said. “You would not get in your car without putting on your seatbelt but there are other generations that do not want to put on a seatbelt because they were not taught that 25 to 30 years ago. What we are trying to do is teach a culture of preparedness with everybody in the county teaching the same message and then building upon that so they have survival skills in a disaster.”

Contact Jim Caesar at 805-450-1747 or james.caesar@ehs.ucsb.edu for additional information about the free program.