Disaster preparedness? What, are we doomsday preppers now?
No, we don’t have a bunker or a stockpile of dehydrated food (or do we?). However, it doesn’t take a disaster of biblical proportions to find yourself if need of basic survival skills. Lower your eyebrows. My husband and I like to acquire knowledge, skills and resources to take care of ourselves and help others if/when “something bad” should happen. So a few months ago, we went through C.E.R.T. training. You might have one in your area. I’ll share a little about what we learned and hopefully inspire you to get some basic preparedness training.
What is C.E.R.T.?
The Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) is a group of volunteer citizens who’ve gone through training for disaster preparedness, disaster medical/psychology, fire safety and light search & rescue. This is NOT a CPR/First Aid class (although that’s a good thing to do).
People will spontaneously try to rescue others in a disaster. Many times they do a lot of good before the pros arrive. Unfortunately, many also get hurt or die in their attempt to help. C.E.R.T. was developed to teach citizens how to best help others in common disaster scenarios without getting injured or killed themselves. Thank you, Los Angeles Fire Department, for creating it and FEMA for making it a nationwide curriculum.
The C.E.R.T. training experience.
Our training took place over 3 Saturday’s. It was part lecture/demonstration, part practice/simulation, and an open-book, group “test”. It was led by our city’s Emergency Management Coordinator, but he also brought in local experts for medical, fire safety, search and rescue, and disaster psychology.
The hands-on portions are always the most memorable.
First up, a triage simulation. After learning the chart below, we went into a room with 30 “victims” (scattered pieces of paper with a description of injuries) and categorized their injuries. I did pretty good but in real life…well, I just hope I never have too do this.
Next, we put out a fire! Not really. That would’ve been great, though. Instead we had a digital simulator (like the one below). We took turns and, even without the urgency of a real fire, a lot of mistakes were made and the fire wasn’t always successfully put out.
Reality check: your small, household fire extinguisher may only last 10 seconds. You can’t learn as you go and even if you know how to use it, it won’t put out much of a fire at all. Having one and assuming you’ll be able to use it when you need too is totally a false sense of security.
Lastly, we went to the drill tower. We had a fire scenario and an earthquake scenario. We practiced chain of command, how to size up a situation, victim extrication, and deciding how to do the most good for the most amount of people. In the fire scenarios we died a lot. In the earthquake scenario, we missed a victim. After this I am even more grateful for the training and dedication of professional emergency responders.
Why preparedness is worth your time.
To be honest, most of us live with a false sense of security.
According to USA Today’s research, “More than 1,000 “saveable” lives are lost needlessly each year in the nation’s biggest cities because of inefficiencies in the cities’ emergency medical systems.” In other words, help may not arrive in time.
In my small city we have 3 ambulances for a population of about 35,000. On a normal, disaster-free day, all 3 can be out on a call, making the next ambulance available 15+ minutes away. Therefore, your ability to start CPR/First Aid right away is a much more important skill than we realize.
It doesn’t take a disaster-level event for basic preparedness training to be useful. It’s not just for those worried about the once-in-a-few-centuries kind of disasters (like Cascadia in the PNW or The “Big One” in California).
Preparedness is being ready to recognize and handle common emergencies that put people and property at risk.
Consider these common emergency situations.
Anaphylaxis: Know the signs of a life-threatening allergic reaction?
Burst Pipe: Know how to shut off water to your entire house/ building?
Gas leak: Know how/where to turn of your gas? Your neighbor’s?
Kitchen fire: Know the best response for a grease fire vs an oven fire?
Power outage: Is there a flashlight near your bed and at your work desk?
Sudden Cardiac Arrest: OSHA says 10k/year occur at work. Where is the AED at your work site or office? Is it ready to use? Does it have batteries?
The list goes on, but these are all very simple things. It doesn’t take much time to refresh your memory and gather a few inexpensive items you might need.
Easy things you can do this week.
- Check your alarms/detectors. Do they work?
- Check your fire extinguisher. Know how to use it? Has it expired?
- Restock your First Aid Kits and add to them. For example, some affordable trauma shears that can cut through almost anything.
- Talk to a neighbor! If someone notices something unusual (possible intruder, smell of gas, smoke), can you contact each other?
- Refresh your CPR/First Aid know-how with these easy online quizzes.
- Designate an out-of-state contact. It’s easier to call someone outside of the area in a local emergency. If everyone in your family knows to check in with the same person, that contact can relay messages.
- See if there is a local C.E.R.T. training near you. Even if you don’t plan to volunteer in a disaster, it’s useful for your own preparedness.