By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ready for emergencies & community events
Manteca CERT members, from left, Debbie Molina, Stephanie Gippetti, and Janice Whitfield with a CERT backpack. - photo by DENNIS WYATT
Stephanie Gippetti learned first-hand during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake just how unprepared most people are in a disaster or major emergency.

She was coaching youth soccer at a San Jose elementary school when the 6.9 Richter scale quake hit. There was a janitor on duty who had no idea where natural gas cut-offs were or how to turn them off. Gippetto along with other citizens assisted the janitor by going around the campus to find the shut-offs and turn the gas off.  It prevented leaking gas from igniting as it did in the Marina District in San Francisco.

That quake killed 63 people and injured 3,757 and severely overtaxed public safety crews.

It is one of the reasons when the opportunity came up to join the Manteca Police Department’s Community Emergency Response Team, she didn’t hesitate.

She took the training that consisted of three hours a day once a week for five weeks and a half-day class on a Saturday to get certified in basic skills critical for emergency situations and elementary first-aid.

Gippetti was able to put those skills to work to save a life on Don Pedro Lake when she came to the aid of a personal water craft user who got cut severely by the blades in an accident that occurred in the middle of the lake. She was among the people who came to his aid and was able to quickly apply pressure in the right spots to stop him from bleeding out while he was taken to shore and 11 miles to the nearest medical facility.

Gippetti is just one of 98 Manteca residents who have volunteered to serve on an on-call basis to help supplement emergency crews in a disaster. Manteca also enlists CERT members to look for missing children, provide traffic control at major accidents and incidents such as when bank robbers were holed up in a home near downtown for nearly 12 hours, and perform other tasks as well as community services such as helping with the upcoming downtown street fair as well as parades.

“People don’t realize what it takes to stage a lot of things they attend like parades,” she noted.

The CERT volunteers were credited with saving a life by medical personnel when they were doing a door-to-door check on the elderly a few years back at El Rancho Mobile Home Park in the middle of a heat wave.

Alan Sexton was one of the CERT members who were doing welfare checks on the elderly that day.

“A lot of people don’t even know we exist,” Sexton said.

One person who definitely does is Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker.

“They are extremely effective,” Bricker said. “They are tried and true when it comes to disasters.”

The CERT movement was an outgrowth of the Los Angeles Fire Department recognizing there is a need for properly trained citizens to supplement emergency crews in major disasters. During earthquakes people often offer to help but had no idea how to do so properly without putting themsleves and others n danger.

Bricker noted the 9.0 quake in Japan underscores the need for trained citizens.

“In a major disaster people may not have any help from overtaxed emergency crews for 24 to 72 hours,” Bricker said.  “CERT volunteers can help secure their neighborhoods when it is cut off from police and fire.”

Sexton noted CERT tries to make people aware of the need to have basic emergency supplies for 72 hours ranging from food and water to things such as tools, batteries, and flashlights that you would need if a quake or some other catastrophic event isolates people.

CERT members - once they are trained and certified - pay $30 for a backpack with $65 worth of basic emergency equipment in it such as goggles, a multi-use tool that can be used for everything from a hammer, to smashing windows, to turning off gas valves, a hard hat, along with duct tape, first aid supplies and more that they carry with them in their vehicles at all times. Volunteers add to the equipment as they see fit.

It has come in handy for Debbie Molina who has assisted at several accidents she’s come across and even one time when Manteca Police flagged her down.

“The officer at the accident recognized me and called me over,” she said.

All CERT volunteers are issued emergency response team badges recognized by various agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency that has even called on Manteca CERT members who were able to volunteer to help with the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans.

Molina emphasized anyone can be of help - even if they are handicapped noting there is a need for various types of volunteer including those that can operate ham radios when communications are knocked down.

Manteca’s CERT team of 98 is the second largest in California with only Los Angeles County having a bigger CERT volunteer corps.

Bricker notes that anyone in government who isn’t taking full advantage of volunteers to help stretch resources isn’t doing their jobs.

For more information on CERT, you can drop by their booth at the upcoming street fair April 2-3 in downtown Manteca, go to the city’s website at, click on the police page and then click CERT or call Gippetti at (209) 824-1480.