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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ojai OK! Drill 2009 - results and reflection

Now that the Ojai OK! Drill (held October 14th, 2009) is concluded, I've had some time to reflect on what was accomplished and achieved. The following are behind-the-scenes detail which recognizes (both volunteer and government) those involved in creating a dynamic Disaster Preparedness & Communications exercise for The Ojai Valley.

Raw Stats

Within one hour, search teams had: met at assigned rendezvous points; counted pre-assigned search areas looking for OK Signs; and communicated, via Ham Radio, the results to the Ojai Police Department (Emergency Operations Center for Ojai). The total count was 944, up from 700 in 2008.

Residents of The Ojai Valley

It cannot be said loudly enough that the Ojai OK! Drill is not possible without the support and participation of Ojai Valley Residents. The signs provide Emergency Preparedness Information which is useful for ongoing discussions. The action of displaying the OK! Sign is paramount for a successful communications exercise.

Ojai Valley CERT Neighborhood Area Coordinators, NERT Coordinators, and CERT Teams

Each of the CERT Neighborhood Area Coordinators (Kathy Miller, Ken Williams, Beth von Gunten, Paul McConnaughey, Paul Garth, Diane Bailey, Mike Weaver and Christel Stratton) managed the effort within their neighborhoods - creating Rendezvous points for NERT Coordinators, managing search areas for CERT Teams and providing communications protocols (FRS & Ham Radio).

Ojai Valley Amateur Radio Club (OVARC)

Ojai Valley Ham Radio Operators, led by Wayne Francis (W6OEU) assisted the various CERT Neighborhoods in communicating to our Emergency Operations Center (Ojai Police Department) the total Neighborhood Counts. Sean Kellythorne (KI6MGI) was inside the EOC representing Ojai Valley CERT.

OVARC (represented by Wayne Francis (W6OEU) and Tom Sullivan (W8MKL)) was responsible for programming the AM 1610 Radio message announcing the drill.

Ham Radio Communication via South Mountain Repeater Association (SMRA) Repeater

Wayne (N6WIX) and Hovan (KI6BQL) provided Ham Radio communications between Ventura and Ojai using our SMRA County Repeater. Ventura Harbor performed a simultaneous OK! Drill using the same format as Ojai.

The Office of Ventura County District 1 Supervisor Steve Bennett

Supervisor Steve Bennett has been a huge supporter of the Ojai OK! Drill from its inception in 2008. His office has provided: OK Signs (in both English & Spanish), instruction sheets, inter-agency support from Cindy Cantle & Brian Brennan, and web-space for communications and file downloads.

Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Ojai Chief of Police Captain Chris Dunn coordinated and requested CalTrans to install two flashing road-signs (Arnaz Grade & Dennison Grade) that advertised the drill's date and time). Capt Dunn was also present in the EOC's Ham Radio Command Post for the duration of the exercise. We appreciate the effort - one of the CalTrans road-signs was requested to be relocated from Los Angeles County.

Ventura County Fire Department

Ventura County Fire Chief Bob Roper was present during the exercise showing his support. Battalion Chief Ranger Dorn observed the communications effort inside the EOC and was impressed with our results and coordination.

City of Ojai

Cindy Cantle (Supervisor Bennett's Office), Paul Garth (West City Ojai CERT) and Diane Bailey (East City Ojai CERT) made a presentation to the Ojai City Council Meeting the night prior to the drill. Laminated Ojai OK! Signs were handed out and Mayor Joe Devito, Council Members and Staff showed enthusiastic support for our drill.

Help of Ojai

Help of Ojai provided the "Little House" space for our post-drill discussion. Brian Brennan (KJ6BXO) relayed status updates between the EOC and the various government officials inside Little House.

Rotary Club Ojai-West

Rotary Club Ojai-West generously donated $500 to Ojai Valley CERT for laminating 2000 OK! Signs.

Ventura Laminating, Ventura

Ventura Laminating generously laminated 2000 OK! Signs for $500 - a huge discount.

Ken Williams

Special note to Ken, who has provided much of his own capital in laminating hundreds of Ojai OK! Signs for Mira Monte and has linked several residential parks together using FRS radios.

Cottonwood, Utah - Wasatch District Volunteer Emergency Response Team

At 7PM local time, they performed an emergency drill with 112 homes being informed of the drill; 78 reported that they were "OK". This is a rate of 69.64%. Counts were completed within 30 minutes by radio to their EOC. Communication was relayed via email from Roger Kehr (Emergency Coordinator for CottonWood, Utah) via email to Paul Garth (Ojai Valley CERT).

Public Outreach Efforts

Ojai Valley CERT members made outreach efforts at the Farmer's Market, including Church Groups and Youth Groups.

Ojai Day, while held after the drill, was well supported with 16 members of Ojai Valley CERT providing information (and laminated Ojai OK! sign upgrades) at the CERT booth.

Ojai Valley Emergency Response Team (OVERT)

The OVERT Triad - comprised of Ojai Valley CERT, Ojai Valley Amateur Radio Club and American Red Cross (Ojai) once again came together in mutual support for this exercise. Several members of American Red Cross (headed by Dale Hanson) created search teams within West City Ojai.

Final Comment & notice of Annual Event

Thank you to everybody - it would be infeasible to mention everyone by name - for your support and efforts in the 2009 Ojai OK! Drill.

Ojai Valley CERT are thrilled to announce that the Ojai OK! Drill is now an official annual event - held each third Wednesday of September beginning at 7PM.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ojai OK! Drill in Blog -- In Case of Emergency Blog

My new friend in the Blogosphere (John Solomon), is the author of the popular Blog -- InCaseOfEmergencyBlog.com

He recently wrote an article that does a great job summarizing what the Ojai OK! Drill is all about.

Please go to: http://incaseofemergencyblog.com/2009/10/08/ojai-ok-youre-ok-so-communitys-ok-readiness-drill-involves-public-cert-responders/

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ojai OK! Drill Sign Factory

Ojai Valley CERT makes additional efforts by laminating OK Signs before distribution. The results are more durable, reflective and permanent signs which will be preserved between drills/incidents.

For the 2009 Drill (October 14th at 7PM), the Office of Ventura County District Supervisor Steve Bennett provide several thousand OK signs and instruction sheets.

The Rotary Club-Ojai West generously donated money to Ojai Valley CERT which went towards laminating 2000 signs.

Check out this photo of another laminating operation at Mira Valle Park in Ojai headed by Ken Williams (seated) -- 5 laminating machines going simultaneously!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ojai Valley CERT assigned Ham Radio Simplex Frequencies

Wayne Francis (Emergency Coordinator for Ojai Valley Amateur Radio Club, Area 5), who represents our group to Ventura County Auxiliary Communications Service, assigned specific Ham Radio Simplex Frequencies to each of the nine (9) CERT Neighborhood Areas.

Last year's Ojai OK! Drill was a success because 11 local Ham Operators shadowed Neighborhood Area Coordinators and communicated total counts to the EOC.

Since then, there has been a concerted effort to license new operators, with over 50 additional operators becoming licensed. We recently held a licensing in Ojai which added 10 new operators.

For the October 14th Drill, we plan on having more operators within each Neighborhood -- ideally one for each NERT Coordinator. Most of the CERT Neighborhood Area Coordinators are now Ham Operators.

By using Simplex freqnencies within each Neighborhood it will allow each NERT Coordinator to effectively communicate to the Neighborhood Area Coordinator using a trusted and proven communications system.

Here are the Simplex frequencies for Ojai:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Radio Ojai Interview (9/11/09)

Check out "Lisa Interviews Paul Garth of the Ojai OK! Drill"

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”:


Friday, July 31, 2009

Head of FEMA commenting on Personal Preparedness

FEMA Head (Craig Fugate) Says Personal Preparedness “Must Be National Priority”; Requires “Considerable National Attention” — “Every Elected And Appointed Official At Every Level of Government Must Make It A Priority”

Pretty clear directive from the Head of FEMA.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Revised Ojai OK Drill date

The date for the Ojai OK Drill has been changed.

It is now confirmed to Wednesday, October 14th, 2009.

Drill begins at 7PM -- NERT teams go to their rendezvous points

Counting completed by 8:00PM

Counts communicated by 8:30PM, via Ham Radio, to Emergency Operations Center

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Welcome to the OK Drill

Thank you for spending time reviewing this web-site. We request you seriously consider implementing this OK Drill within your local volunteer emergency response organizations.

It is important to reach out to your Government and Emergency Response Agencies. During Ojai's 2008 OK Drill, we enjoyed the support of: Ventura County Office of Emergency Services (Reverse 911 Drill), Ventura County Fire Department (visits to 5th grade classrooms and adopting the OK Sign Drill), Ventura County Board of Supervisors (Supervisor Steve Bennett's office providing several thousand OK signs), Ojai City Hall (Support from Mayor and City Council), Ventura County Sheriff's Department (AM Radio Station broadcast), Ojai Valley Amateur Radio Club (Ham Operators shadowing each Neighborhood Area Coordinator and providing communications at our local Emergency Operations Center (EOC)), American Red Cross for providing assistance during counting, and to all the CERT Graduates who searched their neighborhoods looking for and counting OK signs. The primary effort of the drill came from CERT and the community, with strong support provided from Government and Professional First Responders.

The opportunities for creating/enhancing teamwork, communications, and leadership are quite profound.

The annual OK Drill has been consistently performed by the Culver City CERT and Culver City Amateur Radio Emergency Service - it is impressive they can size-up the entire city and communicate results within an hour.

Ojai Valley CERT first implemented the OK Drill on 9/17/08 (700 signs counted within one hour) and has since enjoyed: CERT Classes averaging 40 students; licensing over 42 additional Ham Radio Operators; CERT leadership throughout Valley; and strategic partnerships created between Ojai Valley Amateur Radio Club and American Red Cross.

Between now and the drill we will post articles on this Blog, including use of Twitter ( http://www.twitter.com/okdrill ), Facebook and GoToWebinar.

Our objective is to "push the envelope" by generating (using the power of technology and mutual agreement) a possibility of having as many volunteer emergency response teams holding their OK Drill on the same day (10/14/09) at 7:00PM, your local time. The synergy created will lay a foundation for future drills.

We're avoiding the need to email out updates, so please consider "following" this blog-site, including frequent checks of the calendar at the bottom of the page. Feel free to post questions you have.

Thank You from all of us at Ojai Valley CERT

Moorpark CERT OK Drill Video