Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Baker’s Dozen ™ Hints - Tasks for a Community Emergency Response Team

Every community should have volunteer, informal groups that are prepared to respond to help neighbors and deal with disasters that threaten the community. There are many tasks that can be done by a CERT, and often a community should specialize and have several teams to deal with different situations. In many cases, these teams will support other community resources, like the volunteer fire department, sheriff’s office or posse, ambulance service, or homeowners’ association. In other cases, they must function on their own, either because the situation is not of a scale to trigger those, or because the disaster is so serious that the normal emergency response resources are completely swamped either locally or someplace else. Here are some of the common tasks that a CERT in the Western US might need to do:

1. Assist in the evacuation of community members with handicaps, elderly, with small children, or other unique situations.

2. Coordinate for emergency transportation for people, food, water, medicine, etc.

3. Provide for purification of water in case of disruption or contamination of the water supply.

4. Provide for emergency sanitation in case of failure of normal sanitation facilities.

5. Fighting small wildfires.

6. Searching for lost children or elderly.

7. Delivering emergency messages door-to-door.

8. Providing food and water for emergency response personnel or from people evacuated from their homes.

9. Providing supplies and assistance for shelters in community centers, church buildings, or other locations for refugees.

10. Assist other first-responders with crowd and traffic control.

11. Provide a place where people in the community can come to get questions answered, leave messages, donate assistance and materials, and otherwise help.

12. Provide a forum for helping people plan individually for disasters, distributing information, sharing ideas, and other actions BEFORE an emergency.

13. Recruit people to form other community emergency response teams.

These are just a few of the many tasks that a CERT, often only four or five people, can perform to help a community pull together in case of disaster, whether we are talking a wildfire, a blizzard, windstorm, power outage, influx of refugees, hazmat incident, or other emergency. Even preparation and cooperation on a completely voluntary and small scale can save lives and communities.

©2005 Information Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.

Bakers Dozen (TM) Hints to Prepare for Disasters

Based on the recent responses (or lack thereof) of government at all levels to natural disasters, and the aftermath of natural disasters, it is wise to take a little time and do some preparation in case YOU find yourself in such a situation. Assume that no government agency will be there to help.

1. Have a “GO-bag” with you at all times. A “GO” bag consists of those items which you need for the next 12-18 hours in case you are cut off from your normal house, office, vehicle, or work location. It might include keys, phone, phone card, a bottle of water, medication, paper and pen/pencil, spare ammo, and other items, and should be small enough to fit into your briefcase, a shoulder bag, or a small day-pack.

2. Make sure that you and your family have an evacuation plan of your own, and places (plural) to assemble in case you are caught when the family is scattered when a crisis erupts, and the priority in which they are to be used. Where those locations are is very much dependent on the type of threats that you may face.

3. Have a larger “GO-pack” in your vehicle at all times. This includes items similar to your “GO-bag” – those things you would need for 24-72 hours cut off from your home, your workplace, and sources of supply. It might include water, food, first-aid, emergency vehicle items, ammo, weapons, and perhaps even an old cell-phone and charger, FRS radios, and similar items. Although normally kept in your vehicle, it should be something that you can pack at least a short distance on your back: a medium-size pack or small duffel.

4. Make sure that your home and office are prepared in case of a disaster such as a blackout, storm, or other incident that does not directly threaten you or your location. This includes having supplies on hand, such as water, non-electric appliances (such as can-openers and ventilators), medicines, and ways to ventilate or heat the place. You should be able to live in your house or office for up to a week when cut off from normal utilities and access.

5. Make yourself a safe place in your apartment, house, or on your property – a place to allow you and your family to defend and survive for up to 96 hours, with supplies, protection/shelter, and defenses; assuming that all utilities are shut off and that bad guys are running around without control.

6. Ensure that you have at least some supplies and tools available to do emergency repairs on your house, such as blocking off broken windows, providing for security in case of broken locks, shutting off gas, water, or electricity, and have a plan to know how to do these things.

7. Encourage your relatives, neighbors, fellow church-members, business associates, and service providers to do these things as well. Share ideas, but be careful about specifics on what YOU have done, or on finding out what THEY are specifically doing.

8. Organize community emergency response teams (CERT) that are volunteer, relatively informal, teams of people that learn what can be done and decide what they can do in case of a disaster in a community.

9. Make sure that you have a means of escape at all times. For most of us, that means having a working automobile of some kind – in reasonably good working order, with the GO bag there. And make sure that your fuel tank is at least ½ full at all times. (For others, that may require working with someone who DOES have a good vehicle, or other alternatives.)

10. Ensure that you have multiple escape routes to use based on the threat (such as, for example, flash flooding) to get from your normal locations to your assembly point and to a safe place.

11. Arrange in advance for one or more places to take shelter, if need be for an extended time, if it is necessary to evacuate; this might be with family or friends or an affiliated church, or a place where the family goes for vacations.

12. Ensure that you have adequate weapons suited for your location and situation, and that you have been trained on these.

13. Ensure that you have adequate ammunition for your weapons, both for training and for emergency use; assume that resupply may NOT be possible for an extended period (years).

These are just a few of the most critical items that you need in case of emergency. But the most important is your attitude: “I CAN survive, I CAN make a difference, and I DON’T have to depend on welfare or forced help from anyone.” Are you ready?

(c) 2005 Information Incorporated