Volunteer responders need to retrain 

The memory of front stoops and lawns flooded with neighbors not knowing what to do after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake is just one reason Rick Ochsenhirt volunteered as a community emergency response team member.

"I’ll be able to raise my hand and say, ‘Come over here, and I’ll teach you," said the South San Francisco resident, who also trained to receive his CPR certification.

That spirit of volunteerism is what made Ochsenhirt become a team member in the 1990s, when the city trained more than 350 locals in how to help out authorities after a natural disaster or emergency.

But now, with a new curriculum for the training program focusing on more intense education, the hundreds that received training a decade ago will need to take the program again if they want to be a part of the team, officials said.

The South San Francisco Fire Department offered the program from 1991-97 before it ended training due to budget constraints. The recent graduating class is the first since 1997, Capt. Bryan Saenz said.

Those who were trained in the 1990s need to come back through the training if they want to be recognized as team members, Saenz said.

Ochsenhirt did indeed return. He and 21 others were recently named to South San Francisco’s Community Emergency Response Team after a seven-week course that saw an increased emphasis on hands-on training and collaboration rather than basic safety skills for the neighborhood, officials said.

The community response team program, run through the Citizen Corps program in the Federal Emergency Management Agency, trains citizens in disaster preparedness and response skills like fire safety, light search and rescue, medical operations and team organization.

The new training, which costs the fire department roughly $400 a person, focuses on hands-on and realistic experience.

dsmith@examiner.com

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