David Cosgrave had a good excuse for multitasking at the Coastside Community Emergency Response Team’s downtown Half Moon Bay neighborhood virtual meeting last week. While the emergency preparedness and response volunteer group discussed its agenda and plans for a membership drive, the Coastside Protection District Fire Division chief and CERT program manager had to leave the meeting several times while talking with fire crews putting out a fire near Skyline Boulevard and Kings Mountain Road.

For most of the meeting, however, the radio chatter was silent as a dozen members of CERT’s downtown Half Moon Bay neighborhood discussed priorities and goals for the year.

It was a chance for both new and old members to meet trainees and program leaders. Part of the meeting revolved around how best to reach more residents, which prompted a discussion of how to identify what CERT stood for and its mission. The downtown neighborhood’s next meeting will be at 4 p.m. on May 5.

Neighborhood data manager Amy Allshouse identified the organization’s role as building a roster of emergency-minded households who can communicate with each other in the event of a disaster, particularly if phones become unusable. Not everyone has to be a first responder, but there’s a strength-in-numbers aspect to CERT’s mission.

“In case of a mass emergency, 911 isn’t going to be the number you need to call,” she said. “I think that’s the main thing we want people to know. That’s why these CERT people are trying to get your information.”

To get more traction and input from Coastsiders, CERT plans to distribute flyers in English and Spanish on Saturdays at the Coastside Farmers Market. It also will publish bilingual Disaster Ready Guides.

The group’s first item of business on Thursday was defining zones across the downtown neighborhood. The idea, Cosgrave explained, is by breaking up the downtown area into quadrants; each smaller section of town could communicate more easily with neighbors in that tighter vicinity during an emergency. But there are issues with defining each section as some zones cut across the same streets, separating neighbors who would otherwise work together. In the end, members decided to hold off on subdividing the area until more people signed up.

There are nearly 1,800 people listed on the Coastside network, but roughly 300 have completed CERT’s basic training course. Cynthia Sherrill, CERT’s program coordinator, said because this is a grassroots effort, CERT supplies many of the basic skills and training, but it’s up to groups of individuals to organize how they see fit. That could mean passing out informational pamphlets or meeting at a centralized location.

“We have a whole bunch of people who can supportyou, but you as the neighborhood do have autonomy,” she said. “You have the free will and the right to organize yourselves.”

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