[L.A. County Fire Dept.] – More than 3,500 Los Angeles County residents have been trained to take action after a disaster instead of becoming victims, thanks to one man – Fire Capt. Scott Polgar. Through Polgar’s dedication and commitment to the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, these residents have been educated in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations, making them and their communities safer. On December 8, Polgar was honored by our Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Cities of Lancaster and Palmdale and the American Red Cross for conducting his 100th CERT class in a formal ceremony held at the Berean Fellowship in the City of Palmdale.
Polgar’s passionate commitment to the CERT program began in 1997 when he was a Fire Fighter Specialist at Fire Station 73 in the City of Santa Clarita. During his off hours he worked for a disaster supply company, where he provided similar disaster preparedness classes and sold related supplies. While the company did not survive, he learned he enjoyed creating these educational programs. “I loved the teaching aspect and getting to interface with the citizens,” he recalls. So when his then Battalion Chief John Harris requested assistance in conducting CERT classes, Polgar thought it would be a perfect fit. He taught his first class in Santa Clarita and has been nonstop ever since, traveling all over the County to cities such as Palos Verdes, Pomona, Inglewood, Malibu, Irwindale, El Monte and Covina, before focusing primarily on the communities of the Antelope Valley where he lives. “Teaching CERT gets our Department directly involved with the citizens that we serve,” says Polgar. “People are hungry for the information that the CERT program offers, and for firefighters to teach it. I am just feeding the needs of the community.”
In the event of a major disaster, these trained residents will be assisting their hometowns with minor problems, leaving our firefighters to concentrate on larger incidents. “There’s no greater outreach our Department does in the communities than CERT,” says Polgar. “Interfacing with our citizens other than while answering an emergency call is extremely important. My last class consisted of 48 people who elected to take time out of their busy schedules to attend this 20-hour class. All of them left with a positive image of firefighters, our Department and a sense of accomplishment that we’ve given them the education to take care of themselves. They also feel that they are really getting something for their tax dollars from these classes.”
Polgar began his career with our Department as a firefighter in 1983, and had been an Explorer for five years in Battalion 7 when it was part of Palos Verdes. However, his interest in becoming a firefighter was sparked as a kid growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, and watching the television show Emergency!, which was centered around two fictional Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics named Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto. Says Polgar, “Never did I realize that I would be working in the same Department as Gage and DeSoto!” He thanks his wife and three kids, as well as his previous bosses Deputy Chief Mike Metro, former Deputy Chiefs Gil Herrera and Steve Lindsey, and former Chef Deputy Mike Dyer without whose support he could not be involved in the CERT program. Congratulations to Polgar on this major accomplishment.