Fire Chief Cockrum asking for 100 emergency response volunteers

Fire Chief Scott Cockrum

If a major disaster struck Lynnwood right now, there are only ten Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers in the entire South Snohomish Community ready to help.

That’s nowhere near enough, according to Fire Chief Scott Cockrum.

“I’d like to have 50 to 100 active members,” Cockrum told the Lynnwood City Council during a community disaster preparedness outreach presentation on Monday.

There used to be more CERT volunteers, but several have been re-assigned to Snohomish County’s Division of Emergency Management (DEM) and and other groups due to the disbanding of the Emergency Services Coordination Agency (ESCA) in 2015, the chief said. Lynnwood, along with Brier, Edmonds, Mill Creek, Mukilteo, Woodway and Mountlake Terrace, had been contracting with ESCA for emergency management service when the organization, overwhelmed by the Oso mudslide and internal issues, made the decision to shut down.

The fire chief said more recruitment was needed to get volunteers trained for CERT. Training involves 20 hours and there is great flexibility in how those can be spread out.

“Sometimes it will be two hours a week, or two hours twice a week, or sometimes it takes three Saturdays. There are a variety of ways this works,” Cockrum said.

CERT training graduates will then take on one of two important roles. One regards basic rescue and communications.

“We teach them information to get out to the community and basic rescue stuff such as how to shut off a gas line, a water line, power, and checking on neighbors,” Cockrum said. “The second role is they become part of our (fire) team. They stay with us and train with us and we use them for deploying regularly. We use them for public education and also keep them active to stay part of our resource.”

Cockrum would like to have enough CERT volunteers in place for the three-day “Cascadia Rising” exercise on June 7-10. With science reports indicating a catastrophic 8.0-9.0 magnitude earthquake and and subsequent tsunami likely to hit the area from northern California up into Washington, called the Cascadia Subduction Zone, emergency operations and coordination centers (EOC/ECCs) at all levels of government and the private sector will activate to coordinate simulated field response operations within their jurisdictions and with neighboring communities, state EOCs, FEMA, and major military commands.

“From the tsunami effects, we anticipate 10,000 fatalities, 30,000 injuries, 7,000 bridges destroyed or rendered inoperable, 16,000 highways destroyed and 90 percent of the ports damaged,” Cockrum said. “We’ll be dealing not only with a major disaster, but it will be a huge challenge upon all our resources. The first three to seven days alone will be very difficult.”

“If our supply chain breaks down, we will run out of food in three days,” Cockrum said. “We have to have a plan in place on how to maintain some continuity of government so you can help your people.”

He said Lynnwood actually has an EOC, but two other items that will be tested in Snohomish County by the “Cascadia Rising” event are whether the EOC can communicate effectively with the DEM and whether jurisdictions can put together a plan on how to mitigate the effects of disasters.

According to the fire chief, having enough qualified CERT volunteers is a vital part of that plan.

To find out more information on what to do in a natural disaster or emergency, please attend the free Community Disaster Preparedness Town Hall on Tuesday, March 15, 6:308:30pm, at Edmonds Community College’s Woodway Hall located at 20000 68th Ave. W. in Lynnwood.

–By Karen Law

  1. This is the kind of information that should reach the Diversity Commission and doesn’t. Thanks to your article, Academia Latina contacted Chief Cockrum to arrange the first CERT training for a group of Lynnwood neighbors.

    1. My husband was CERT trained a number of years ago, how does one “get back into this” ?

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