A few friends and I had the great opportunity to go through a C.E.R.T (Community Emergency Response Team) training by Kenneth Moravec a couple weeks ago. It was a great experience and a true eye opener about how unprepared we really are as a community. In a nutshell, if a big emergency was to happen, many people would lose their lives because of the lack of simple preparedness.
So what exactly does C.E.R.T. involve?
C.E.R.T. simply involves the basic training of what is needed to prepare for and how to handle an emergency (both natural and man-made) when it occurs.
The topics within the class covered:
- Disaster preparedness (impacts on infrastructure, role of CERTs in disaster response)
- Disaster fire suppression (identifying and reducing potential fire hazards, basic fire suppression strategy, firefighting resources and techniques)
- Disaster Medical Operations (airway obstruction, bleeding, shock, triage, head-to-toe patient assessment, treatments for various injuries, public health considerations, etc.)
- Light search and rescue operations (priorities and resources, situation size-up and search, lifting, cribbing and victim removal, limitations and hazards)
- Disaster psychology and team organization (post-disaster emotional environment, CERT organization, decision making, documentation)
- CERT and terrorism (dealing with terrorism aftermath, protecting yourself and preparing for a terrorist situation)
- Disaster simulation exercise (where we did a mock emergency)
It was an extremely beneficial training, even for those of us who are very preparedness-minded. What we soon realized is that even prepared people need specific training to handle specific emergencies. This is not about self-survival, but about helping others in times of need. These may be your own family, your close friends or complete strangers that you occasionally see walking their dog in the morning.
A couple things to think about in your own community.
- If an emergency did occur in your neighborhood, what would you do?
- Where would you meet with others to determine the extent of local damage?
- How would you coordinate a house-to-house search to check on the status of residence and if any assistance was needed?
- How would you determine who needed help first, if there was a long list of people who needed help?
- How would you treat major medical needs (lacerations, broken bones, severed limbs, burns, shock, etc) if nobody else was around?
- How do you transport severely injured people?
- How would you mark the homes that are ok, those that need immediate help, those that are unsafe to enter, etc?
- How do you keep records of your efforts so that you are more efficient and able to better coordinate and are able to hand over reports to authorities when they do arrive?
- Where would you set up a make-shift first aid station?
- How do you handle fires and prevent them from spreading?
- How do you protect those that are involved in search and rescue and keep them from getting hurt?
- How do you lift a wall, beam or other extremely heavy objects off a person?
- How do you coordinate turning off gas, water, etc. if needed for each house?
- How do you rotate shifts for volunteers so that they don’t all burn out at once?
- What resources (both physical and knowledge) are available in your neighborhood and are they available for use in an emergency?
Keep in mind, that local authorities may be DAYS away from being able to help you in your neighborhood. They have many areas to take care of before they ever arrive in neighborhoods (hospitals, schools, universities, large businesses, etc.). There may be no doctors. It may just be you and your neighbor helping others. Lack of preparedness could result in unnecessary loss of life. Simple preparedness could easily result in monumental success in post-disaster relief.
The time to prepare, organize and train is now. If you wait until it is needed, it is too late. This is a community effort, which is unfortunately ignored. But all it takes is one individual to get things moving. Take on that responsibility. Get CERT trained, organized a group in your community and develop game plans according to the CERT guidelines. Then continue to get more people CERT trained. Develop teams, coordinate your efforts. Hopefully you’ll never need to utilize your skills, but looking at the major increase in natural disasters, threats of terrorism and dependence on others for basic daily needs, the chances are you will. Will your neighborhood be a success story? Hopefully it will.
The following resources may be of benefit in your efforts:
- CERT Website: http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/
- Introduction and About CERT: http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/about.shtm
- Directory of CERT programs by state: http://www.citizencorps.gov/cc/CertIndex.do?submitByState
- Search CERT by zip code: http://www.citizencorps.gov/cc/searchCert.do?submitByZip
If you can’t find a CERT program in your neighborhood, visit the local police or fire department. They usually either have a program or know where you can find one. If they don’t, you can often request that your city develop one. Good luck in your preparedness efforts!
Enjoy the journey!