Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I am now an official graduate of the Community Emergency Response Team. My husband and I, along with our neighbor, decided to take part in this eight week course which is attached to FEMA. The all volunteer organization was created by President Bush after the 9/11 attacks to train civilians to be first responders in time of crisis when the professionals are overwhelmed. Examples would be to assist after an earthquake, weather related disasters that would include tornadoes or snowstorms and catastrophic highway accidents among others. It could even be a disaster at a public event such as an amusement park or sporting event.
We have been told point blank, in the event of a large scale disaster we are on our own. Not for the 48-72 hours that many of us have prepared for, but for a week or better, several weeks depending on the nature of the problem. On top of this, we live outside the city in a very rural setting so getting help out here will take longer than in the more populated areas. This means potentially no electricity, no phones, no water, no toilets if you are on a well system, no running to the store for food or medicine, no heat or airconditioning. This is something you have to consider- remember Joplin. It happens in the blink of an eye.
We've learned quite a bit, everything from what NOT to do (Don't try to be a hero in questionable situations, you'll likely become the problem and take away someone's chance to be helped) to turning off utilities, assess the damage to buildings, proper wound bandaging, splinting, how to set up a medical area and triage to properly extinguishing fires using the correct method for each class of fire. There are certain markings that are placed on buildings which look similar to graffiti but provide search and rescue data- something very important to rescue.
Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork. If you aren't the type that is capable of carrying someone out of a building or other physical activities, don't worry. There is a job for everyone. Someone has to log in the helpers, log in and out equipment, take names of victims, their condition and where they are taken or transported, damage assessment reports and it goes on and one.
You can be the runner finding bandages, boards or carrying information. There is a job for everyone. CERT's assistance is not only limited to disasters. They also may assist the police or fire departments by providing assistance at events or even to hand out educational literature at fairs or even door to door during a Change Your Battery campaign for smoke detectors.
Our next big event is scheduled later this month as we join with the Partner Agency Shelter Operations Workshop. "After completing this workshop, participants will be able to
• Identify what services are involved in operating a shelter.
• Describe the roles and responsibilities of each shelter operation position.
• Describe important shelter resident information.
• Match their interests, abilities and skills with those needed in each partner agency shelter.
• Develop a plan of action for activation and operation of their partner agency shelter."
Think about taking CERT training. It's OK if you take the training and don't volunteer for any other activities. It's enough that you know what to do in an emergency to keep you and your family safe. If everyone had just a little training it would go a long way. You can band together with your neighbors to make sure your neighborhood is prepared.