Outcomes and Benefits of OK Drill (It's as easy as 1-2-3-4!)

Outcomes of the OK Drill

Residents will:

  1. Review their Disaster Plan and check their emergency supplies
  2. Tune into (if available) their local AM Emergency Radio stations for instructions
  3. Post their OK sign in a window facing a street or mailbox

Benefits of the OK Drill

  1. People taking personal responsibility for their own welfare through Planning and Preparation
  2. Creating Community by participating in an area-wide drill
  3. Leadership Development through establishing CERT Emergency Response Teams

This simple, yet dynamic, drill provides opportunities to create and enhance teamwork, communications and leadership. Ojai Valley CERT contributes the success of our organization's growth and development to the first Ojai OK Drill held on 9/17/08.

This is how we do it!

  • Ojai Valley CERT (Ojai , CA) is inviting all CERT (and volunteer response) groups to join us for a coordinated drill on the third Wednesday of September at 7PM (your local time).
  • Create OK Signs - Print OK Signs (on Letter Size, Yellow Paper) with applicable information on reverse side
  • Distribute OK Signs - CERT members giving out within their neighborhood; Fire Dept visiting classrooms; Faith-based organizations; Libraries; City Hall; Farmers Markets, etc.
  • Create Neighborhood Areas - Based on Volunteer Response Team Jurisdiction, divide city/town into areas (maximum of 9)
  • Designate Neighborhood Area Command Post - Each Neighborhood Area has a command post with a Neighborhood Area Coordinator
  • Further Divide Neighborhood Areas into NERTs - Based on CERT Volunteer residence and geography, subdivide into smaller areas (Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams)
  • Designate Rendezvous Points - Each NERT has a specific rendezvous point with a Coordinator
  • NERT Assignment - Assign each CERT member to a NERT
  • Assign radio operators (ideally Ham Operator) -- Assign to each Neighborhood Area Coordinator and NERT Coordinator
  • Search Areas Planned - Plan ahead search areas for each NERT
  • Counting Begins - After teams rally at rendezvous point, count designated search area (Note: You have one hour to complete count)
  • Communication of counts - NERT Coordinators Communicate to Neighborhood Area Coordinators
  • Neighborhood Area Count - Area Coordinators tally NERT counts and communicate (via radio) to Command Center (Note: You should be complete by 8:30PM)
  • Command Center tallies Neighborhood Counts - Command Center adds up totals from all Neighborhood Areas
  • Command Center communicates to Ojai Valley CERT - Send email to ojaivalleycert@gmail.com with organization, location and total count.
  • We look forward to collaborating with you.
  • Files & Additional Information - please click on this link

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Radio Ojai Interview on Ojai OK Drill

Last year, I was interviewed by Matt Haag for Radio Ojai (http://www.radioojai.com). The topic covered Personal Preparedness and the September 17th, 2008 Ojai OK Drill.

Please spend about 8 minutes reviewing the information:


Sunday, August 2, 2009

What is the “OK Drill” and why should I consider this for my CERT team?

What is the “OK Drill” and why should I consider this for my CERT team?

Desired Outcomes

Effectively explain the features and benefits of the “OK Drill”, using a simulated CERT disaster response. Enroll all CERT groups to seriously consider implementing this drill. Explore several areas of focus, including: Preparation, Response, Leadership, Teamwork, Search Techniques, Communications, Asset Management, Awareness and Lessons Learned.

Challenge writing this document

Rapidly enrolling CERT groups to implement this drill, by describing several components, without going too deep into operational detail. This seemingly simple drill works, offering profound results over time –try it and report back with your results and lessons learned. My assumption is the reader has received CERT training and is familiar with ICS, SAR and Communications techniques.


Operational details (printing and distributing OK Signs, team assignments, search areas, communication protocols, etc) for drill planning can be found at http://okdrill.blogspot.com. This document will detail the activities from beginning of the drill (7PM, your local time). Reach out to me (ojaivalleycert@gmail.com) with any questions not answered within this material – or just ask anyway.

The dual-sided OK Sign is laser-printed with black ink onto bright yellow letter-sized paper, and ideally laminated (more durable and reflects light). The opposite side (What to do if disaster strikes) can be customized to suit your local community with applicable contacts, etc. Residents either post their OK sign or they do not – keep this simple.


At 7PM, the CERT Team Member posts their OK Sign in a street-facing window, dons their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and heads towards their pre-assigned rendezvous point. Note: Holding the drill at 7PM allows for teams to find each other gathering and then simulates restricted visibility, requiring flashlights.


The NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team) Coordinators go to their specific rendezvous point and meet up with their pre-assigned CERT Team Members. Note: Rendezvous points are located based on CERT Member residence and geography – they count their own neighborhoods.


Each NERT (which will be an actual strike-team during a disaster – where the work is really done within CERT) searches a pre-assigned area, looking for OK Signs that have been posted by residents and CERT members, and keeps track of total count. Note: Not necessary to keep track of residence addresses – maybe just total per block, but definitely total per NERT.

Search Techniques

One strategy is to drive a car in an “S-Shape”, navigating through the streets within pre-assigned search area. The driver is only responsible for safely driving below 15 MPH and navigating. The front right passenger shines flashlight on right side residences. The rear left passenger shines flashlight on left side residences. Note: It’s unlikely you will be freely driving around after a major earthquake/disaster, but this drill addresses many components.


The Neighborhood Area Coordinator (located at a specific central Neighborhood Command Post) communicates to their NERT Coordinators (maximum of five) using FRS, GMRS, or specific Ham Radio Simplex frequencies – depending on equipment and licensing. This command post manages all communications within the Neighborhood and passes applicable traffic to the EOC.

The Neighborhood Area Coordinators communicates (using Ham Radio) total neighborhood counts – all their NERT counts – to the local Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Note: Ideally the Neighborhood Area Coordinator is a Ham Operator, or shadowed by a Ham Operator.

The EOC collects information from all Neighborhood Area Coordinators and communicates information to the next level – in Ventura County that is the Office of Emergency Services (OES).

Drill is complete by 8PM with final counts to EOC/OES by 8:30PM.

After the drill, email ojaivalleycert@gmail.com with your Group’s Name, Location (City, State), Total Count and I will reply back with a Master Summary after compiling results.

Asset Management

While not part of the “OK Drill” each NERT Coordinator manages the Cribbing & Lifting equipment (pry bars, cribbing material, etc) located at each rendezvous point. The NERT Coordinators own their neighborhood and have intimate knowledge of all local assets (generators, trucks, local doctors, etc).

The benefits of the “OK Drill” are 1. People taking personal responsibility for their own welfare through Planning and Preparation (Creating a Disaster Plan, tuning to AM Emergency Stations, posting their status using OK Sign), 2. Creating Community by participating in an area-wide drill and 3. Building Leadership Development through establishing CERT Emergency Response Teams.
Lessons Learned

Invariably, some things will not work out as planned, which is the primary purpose of the drill. Hold an after-drill meeting to discuss what worked and didn’t work. Typically, the areas of opportunity are within Communications and improving the community outreach to participate in the exercise. Each exercise repeat should have a larger stretch goal of total signs counted.

Detailed information on “OK Drill”:


Moorpark CERT OK Drill Video