Lessons From CERT Bag Class

Once a year, we have an opportunity to huddle together and dump out the contents of our CERT bags for inspection and discussion. It’s probably the most internally beneficial events of the year for our membership because we get inspired to upgrade, replace, and/or amend our gear. Here’s what we took away from Thursday night’s class:

There is no perfect bag

Whether your backpack is 100% standard issue or was personally engineered from the ground up, it is missing something. You may also have too much. Striking a balance between weight and utility is difficult and if a perfect balance was possible, we could cancel this event.

Me first

Design your bag to take care of yourself first, and others last. Selfish? That’s okay. We have to ensure that, as emergency responders, we can sustain ourselves for the duration of our assignment. If we are out of commission, so are the people we could have helped. Ensure you have a way to carry water, enough first aid supplies, and the right protective equipment (PPE) for the most important person in the group – yourself.

Ounces equal pounds. Pounds equal pain.

Carrying a 4-in-1 tool, hammer, pry bar, adjustable wrench, and a socket set? Ditch the extra weight by eliminating redundant tools/equipment and consider multipurpose items that can get most jobs done. A 4-in-1 tool combined with a set of Channel Locks provides a ton of versatility with minimal weight. It’s recommended that you do a short hike with your backpack on to find out what you’re really capable of carrying for a long duration.

Water is your friend, and your enemy

You will need more water for drinking that you probably realize. But, water from above can really ruin your day. Make sure your gear is protected from rain by compartmentalizing items in waterproof bags. Consider throwing your bag in a pool; what would/wouldn’t survive? Write In The Rain is a popular brand of waterproof paper and they event make CERT-oriented products such as a field guide and ICS forms.

Are you identifiable?

Consider putting your name on your hardhat so there is no confusion as to who is being yelled at when a hazard is identified or you are urgently needed. Caution: If you put a headlamp on your hardhat, make sure it doesn’t obscure your name. Also, radio call signs are much less critical than names since not everyone will know what that means.

Easy access

What’s on your person is the most accessible and practical gear solution you can assemble. Invest in a good pair of cargo-style pants that can accommodate commonly-used items such as a folding knife, flashlight, bandanna, pen/paper, cell phone, keys, whistle, and compact escape tool.

Gear list

  • A Husky compact headlamp with an external battery was a big hit
  • A website called Do It Yourself Lettering provides adhesive vinyl that can be applied to hard hats; Chris Smith also owns a vinyl cutting machine
  • Consider buying a $10-15 Timex/Casio watch to throw on your bag so you always have a reliable timekeeping method
  • Milwaukee permanent markers are a cheap and reliable writing method. They are proven to write in dust, grease, and other less-than-ideal surfaces. Paint pens (railway markers) are also great writing tools.
  • LA Police Gear is a USA-made brand that designs their own products and offers them at very affordable prices. Notable gear includes the Urban Ops Pants and Atlas 24-hour Backpack.

We sincerely thank Station 5 C-Shift for hosting tonight’s class and for their invaluable insight during the entire discussion. Thanks, Joe, Michael, and Kevin!

See y’all next time.

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