Malibu CERT Team Locked Out

Malibu CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) came out en masse for the Wednesday, Jan. 11, city council meeting to voice concerns over what it deems a public safety hazard in Malibu — the vacancy in the city’s emergency services coordinator position.

Brad Davis, who for years held the job and coordinated CERT’s work and training, took an extended medical leave of absence in Fall 2016 before eventually leaving the city, which left CERT in a bind.

The volunteer team, organized under the umbrella of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), is a group of citizens trained in disaster preparedness and basic disaster response. They may be called upon to assist in the event of an emergency, “when professional responders are not immediately available to help,” according to FEMA. 

“When Brad went on leave, limitations were placed on our ability to officially plan and train on city property,” team member Tim Horton told the council. Horton spoke on behalf of several CERT members in attendance, describing that in the time since Davis went on medical leave, the group has not been permitted to officially meet.

“We went into action, improvised and adapted,” he continued, before explaining that some team members spent money out-of-pocket to rent space to hold training sessions. 

“We, at this time, ask that a city staff member or city council member be appointed to unlock the door for us at City Hall on Saturday morning so an official training can take place,” he said. “This is needed for group cohesion and we only meet once per month.”

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Another CERT member, Marshall Thompson, spoke a bit more pointedly.

“I encourage the city manager to become more familiar with our CERT team, beyond, ‘I will call you if I need, you,’” Thompson said.

When City Manager Reva Feldman addressed the concerns later in the evening, she said she takes public safety very seriously — referencing her own responsibilities and her training as a wildland firefighter. She also said she is notified “24 hours of the day and night” about emergencies. 

In response to complaints about not being able to meet, Feldman said that though she asked that CERT suspend training sessions while Davis was out on medical leave, she “never said we wouldn’t have them,” in her words.

“I have not been asked to use city hall for any trainings,” Feldman said. These words were not particularly encouraging to CERT members in the crowd.

She then went on to explain the city was planning a comprehensive public safety drill including members of a half-dozen nearby organizations. That training drill apparently does not include CERT members, though it includes Sheriff, Fire, California Highway Patrol, Southern California Edison and several other groups.

“I’m really looking forward to having their expertise because they’re the ones who really know how to help us,” Feldman said. “We can train as best we can, but they’re the first responders who really know how to help us best.”

When it came time for council members to speak, newly elected Council Member Rick Mullen — Malibu fire captain — jumped to the defense of CERT and apologized to the group on behalf of city staffers.

“I am actually CERT trained in the City of Malibu as a CERT instructor,” Mullen said. “I can’t speak for the fire department, but the CERT program does very well, and it’s an impressive and robust team that we have here in Malibu that we as a city should be very proud of. 

“I was contacted by a number of CERT people recently, since I’ve been elected, about their concerns,” he continued. “Once I found out that Brad Davis got a new job, I got in touch with him, thanked him for his many years of service. I made sure his lessons weren’t lost and had a very frank discussion about how we can best move forward. I think as professional public safety members, you can expect a lot more support in the future. In the meantime, if the ball was dropped, accept our apology from the city.”

Feldman said nothing further.

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