Public Health Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic

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Another VERY successful Public Health Covid-19 vaccination clinic this week in Palmer with over 900 1st and 2nd doses given. CERT volunteers from teams all over the Mat Su Valley seen here with partners from Team Rubicon and Red Cross working with Mat Su Borough DES. Great teamwork makes it really enjoyable!

Members of the WillowCERT team on site.

Jo Pendleton opens bandaid packets. Over 1200 appointments were made for shots. It sounds like a menial task, but think of the nursing time saved by having someone else opening and delivering 1200 + bandaids around to the nurses! She went from there to sanitizing clipboards and multiple other tasks all with equal enthusiasm.

John Spitsberg was absolutely thrilled with his task he is pictured doing. Last week was the first time people were issued a 1st shot or 2nd shot badge as they registered. John’s job was to scan the badge and allowed PH to have a a real time count for the first time. He loved it!

COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic

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2320 Alaskans in 4 days were vaccinated at the Public Health Covid-19 mass clinics at the Fairgrounds this month. Volunteers from Willow, Talkeetna, Palmer-Wasilla, Butte and Glacier View CERTs worked cooperatively inside & outside Raven Hall to support the clinic. It was amazing to be part of these well-run clinics and very satisfying to see how pleased people were as they left! Our teams worked under the direction of the Mat Su Borough Dept. of Emergency Services. We are getting there Alaskans! Stay safe!

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CERT Aids in Frigid Alaska Flood and Other Events

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November 2020

Flooding is a common problem when rain combines with melting snow in the spring. But floods are unexpected in Alaska in December, when the average temperature high is just 16 degrees Fahrenheit and most things are frozen. Residents in Willow, AK, learned that floods can happen year-round, demonstrating why it is important to be prepared for them at any time.

In December 2019, an ice dam that formed on Willow Creek in southeastern Alaska led to a flood that affected several homes and cut off road access to more than 30 homes. Help came from the many local agencies in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Mat-Su, as it’s abbreviated, is about the size of West Virginia, with 106,000 residents spread over a mostly rural area. Agencies that assisted included the Mat-Su Department of Emergency Services/Office of Emergency Management, Mat-Su Water Rescue Team, Mat-Su Animal Care, the American Red Cross, the Willow CERT , and four fire departments.

“It would be hard to forget this event,” said Brenda McCain, Willow CERT Team Leader. “It is nothing [like] anyone of us can ever recall — sudden flooding filling a home at 11:15 at night at 17 below zero in December!”

Willow CERT members individually helped with canteen services provided by American Red Cross workers for residents and first responders. The CERT was prepared to support sheltering assistance for residents.

“Our CERT stayed in constant communication with emergency services, attended all community meetings, and stood ready to help if needed at any time,” said McCain. The majority of Willow CERT volunteers have cross-trained with the American Red Cross by completing its Shelter Fundamentals course, making this integration of support seamless.

The Willow CERT is comprised of 45 members and responds to many incidents in its area. “Willow CERT is always ready to help their community, and they exemplify a ‘we got this’ attitude. We knew we could count on them to step up during the flooding just as they did the previous summer when wildfires affected the area,” said Talon Boeve, CERT Coordinator of Mat-Su Borough.

“The CERT worked closely with displaced residents making sure their animals and personal needs were being met. They projected a sense of community members helping community members during this time. The ability to interact, show empathy, and deliver services is a hallmark of this particular CERT team,” she said.

Luckily, no houses were destroyed during the flood, and residents were able to recover relatively quickly after the flood water receded.

Most recently, members helped set up COVID-19 outdoor testing sites from April to August.

“The majority our team are seniors, so they are more vulnerable if they did contract COVID-19. We had an opportunity to help in a way that we could be outside, keep a safe distance, wear our masks, and get some exercise,” McCain said.

Last year, the CERT responded to the McKinley and Deshka Landing wildfires, which destroyed 52 homes and burned more than 4,500 acres. During these incidents, Willow CERT assisted the Red Cross with setting up, running, and taking down a shelter. It also helped with parking lot management and served as an information and community liaison.

As the Willow CERT’s story shows, disasters can happen at any time. To ensure you are prepared for floods, it is important to make sure you have flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program can help advise you on the type of insurance you need, what you need to be aware of, and how to prepare for floods.

To learn more about CERT, please visit

Disclaimer: The reader recognizes that the federal government provides links and informational data on various disaster preparedness resources and events and does not endorse any non-federal events, entities, organizations, services, or products. Please let us know about other events and services for individual and community preparedness that could be included in future newsletters by contacting

This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.

Dynamic “Virtual Expo” Site

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The Mat Su Emergency Expo and the Su Valley Emergency Preparedness Fair in Willow were not held this year due to the pandemic. The Borough has developed instead a dynamic “Virtual Expo” site with a wide variety of emergency preparedness info for all that is available year round. It’s going to be an evolving website with new info added.

As you explore the virtual Expo, you’ll find resources to help you learn how to survive and thrive in the face of emergencies and disasters.

ENSTAR Training

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ENSTAR Natural Gas Co. gave a valuable presentation to volunteers from Willow, Talkeetna, Palmer/Wasilla and Glacier View CERTs. Important topics covered included calling 811 to locate gas lines before ANY digging, what to do if you smell a gas leak, how to decide whether to shut off gas after an earthquake and how to do it and carbon monoxide information. Although only one person attending actually had natural gas in their area, the info might be needed if CERTs are assisting in other areas during a disaster. Thank you to Talon Boeve, MSB Emergency Operations Specialist for bringing us this interesting, important lecture! For more info on these topics go to the ENSTAR website and click on “Safety and Education”.

FEMA Updates Community Emergency Response Team Training

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FEMA conducted a webinar on January 8 on the release of the updated Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Basic training curriculum. Presenters shared the reasons for the changes, highlighted best practices, and shared impacts of the updated training. Participants learned how trainers can deliver the updated training and how to order materials. This was the second of two webinars about the updated CERT Basic training curriculum, though the webinars presented similar information. Recordings of the webinars can be found here.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks.

The updated CERT Basic Training can be found here. It features a revised Disaster Medical Operations section, updated Terrorism and CERT section, and new hazard-specific annexes. Find the new curriculum materials online and order free copies from the FEMA publications warehouse beginning January 8, 2020. The CERT Basic Training includes research-validated guidance for CERT programs to teach members what to do before, during, and after the hazards their communities may face. The materials in the training include instructor guides, participant manuals, and hazard annex slide decks. The FEMA Independent Study IS-317: Introduction to CERT can be taken online before or during training.

[ARRL is an affiliate under the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps programs–Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, Community Emergency Response Teams and Medical Reserve Corps. The mission is public preparedness and safety. In other words, neighborhood and community volunteers serve as the “help until the help arrives.” Radio amateurs are ideal candidates for the CERT program owing to their unique ability to communicate within their neighborhoods and communities for local emergency communications, but also when the need exists for communications with the outside world.]