My wife and I recently attended a meeting hosted by our County Emergency Departments entitled, “How would you react in an Emergency Situation? Let us help you BE PREPARED!”. The purpose of the meeting was for each department to share their level of training and preparedness to serve the community during various emergency situations and to inform citizens about what they can do to prepare as well.
There were representatives from Communications, Police, Fire & Rescue, Schools and Emergency Management. For the most part, the information was extremely general (multiple references to ready.gov) and the presentations lacked many good examples of how citizens could prepare for an emergency situation. Not surprisingly, the police department never discussed an armed citizen being able to quickly deter or end an active shooter scenario. The speakers reminded me of parents participating in career day at an elementary school describing what they did for a living. There was some interesting statistical information and some of the features of the Communication Operations Center were neat, but by the second speaker it was becoming obvious that subordinates had prepared the Power Points and the speakers were simply reading from the slides. Like a parishioner enduring a particularly dry sermon, I found myself feverishly taking notes to remain focused.
The CERT program has been designed to train civilians and to provide for overall community preparedness in assisting first responders during an emergency.
Whether intentional or not, I assume the latter, they saved the best for last. The final presenter was from the Emergency Management Department and was a breath of fresh air. The gentleman smiled and engaged the audience of fewer than twenty civilians, my wife and I representing the under 50 crowd, and apologized for not having a fancy slide presentation. He had my attention at that point and proceeded to speak from the heart with a passion for his subject matter which can’t be faked or read from a screen. He is our area’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Coordinator and shared information about the free program funded by a grant from FEMA (Yes, free means funded by tax payers!). The CERT program has been designed to train civilian volunteers to assist first responders for up to 72 hours when FEMA would then be able to fully respond to the emergency. The program was established in the wake of Hurricane Katrina for seemingly obvious reasons. If you’re interested in the CERT program you can follow this link to search for classes forming in your community. I have enrolled in the five week training course and will be providing blog updates after each module.
I’m truly looking forward to the classes and am eager to spend more time with the instructor. I’ll be passing along information on gear, techniques and planning; but will also focus on how the training approaches personal preparedness versus the expectation of community assistance. As an individual who is preparing to be more self sufficient via access to water and shelf stable foods, it will be interesting to gauge the concept of self reliance in a metropolitan area of over 100,000 citizens. The training classes run through February, so check back often for updates. If you’ve participated in the CERT program in your locality, please share your experience in the comments section.