Malibu's CERT program ready for wildfire season, and communication is top priority

During the 2018 Woolsey Fire, cell towers burned and communication became an issue, but the city is working to address that.

Leo Stallworth Image
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Malibu program hopes to improve communication during wildfires
During the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which destroyed hundreds of homes in Malibu, cell towers burned and communication became an issue. Now, the city's CERT program is working to address that.

MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) -- Malibu has a history of being hit by wildfires, and during the 2018 Woolsey Fire, a major issue was the lack of communication when cell towers burned. But there's an entire team working to address that and more.

The city's Community Emergency Response Team, also known as CERT, was created to help residents when disaster strikes.

According to the city's website, it was originally created in the 80s by the Los Angeles City Fire Department to provide basic training in safety and life-saving skills to the public and has since been adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Now, at a CERT station in Zuma Beach, Malibu residents can find volunteers hard at work and ready to help.

"We operate under the authority of the city of Malibu," said Richard Garvey, a Malibu CERT leader and volunteer.

The city is pointing to the Woolsey Fire, which left hundreds of homes destroyed in Malibu, as an example of how necessary it was for the city to create CERT to be better prepared.

"[We] try to address the issue of how do we communicate to our community when there's no cell service, there's no electrical power ... That was a big issue during the Woolsey Fire," said Malibu Public Safety Director Susan Duenas. "We sent out lots of disaster notifications but almost nobody got them. So, working with our Community Emergency Response Team, which is our official community volunteers, we have created, what we call, information stations."

Residents visiting the Malibu CERT station will find multiple information boards and even food and water.

"We have things like energy bars, which are good for five years, we have gloves, masks, goggles ... We have 275 gallons worth of potable water in here," said Garvey during a tour of the station on Tuesday.

There is even free WiFi surrounding the CERT station for residents who may need to communicate with loved ones during a disaster.