While browsing through newspapers the past year or so, I’ve begun to feel that our delicate little world has joined the “disaster of the month club.” No kidding – let’s think about it. We can start a few years ago and discuss what hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans and what the earthquake and tsunami did to Japan. We can look at the fires last year in Australia, and the flooding in Haiti. And even the recent bombings in Boston. Well I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the idea.
OK – so what we need to ask is, “Is it our turn next?” We can probably rule out a tsunami, and we get very few hurricanes passing this way. But the professionals in the area of earthquakes tell us we are long past due for a good shaking around here.
Let’s be pessimistic for a line or two and talk about what a really bad quake would do to us here in the Alive Magazine readership environment.
First of all, we can cross off electricity and phone lines. What the shake didn’t topple the falling branches, and for that matter, the uprooted trees took care of. If the quake was large enough, we can probably cross out these conveniences for at least a week, and probably longer.
Now, the younger generation immediately thinks of cell phones with a bit of arrogance. But I am told that the excessive traffic that results in a disaster such as an earthquake pretty well jams those lines, and they aren’t going to work.
Next we need to look at the damaged buildings and the toppled book cases that manage to land on people. Our first instinct would be to call the fire department and police for help in dealing with these upended structures and/or trapped neighbors. History in other disasters informs us of several facts. One, only a limited number of these helpers is available, i.e., only the ones on duty. The ones not working in these departments are helping in their own area. Two, the few on duty are overwhelmed by the sheer number of problems which have developed. Result – limited assistance here too.
Injured must be cared for on the spot or transported, and access to proper medical care will be limited. Speaking of transportation, these nice solid overpasses above our freeways may or may not hold. Some are bound to collapse. You’re not going to be able to zoom around in your BMW, if that’s your plan. There will be traffic jams and certainly limited movement.
There probably will be fires. Those gas lines to your house may rupture, and a spark could ignite them. There are groves of trees just waiting for this to happen.
Getting hungry and thirsty? Better have a bottle or two of H2O and an outdoor grill because you may need them for a week or so. Drinking pool water will make you sick.
I could go on and on, but I guess by now you’ve got the picture about what could happen. In fact, you may be asking, “Is anyone doing anything about this possible situation?”
Ah ha – I’m glad you asked. The answer is “YES” – a very strong powerful yes.
Over the past several years a program has been developed under the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security. This program is called Community Emergency Response Team – referred to by the acronym CERT. The program this group encourages varies a great deal around the country. California is one of the more effective areas with the Bay Area being good, and the Martinez to Livermore area being one of the best.
In case of a disaster, one of the most important needs is communication. In our area an efficient network has been established with individuals communicating through minimum range radios called FRS, to group stations with more powerful radios called GMRS, and a network of HAM operators who report to a central command station located, for example, in fire or police headquarters. This will allow the professionals to get a clear overview of the damage and direct their limited resources to the areas of the most need. In addition, they can give professional and informed information to the outside world.
The basic information coming from the field via the FRS transmissions will be supplied by a large group of trained volunteers. These volunteers have been attending classes and participating in training drills for most of the last five years. This training includes other items as well as radio communication.
Basic search and rescue instruction is also included. This includes medical triage, neighborhood safety, i.e., how to turn off gas lines in houses, proper techniques in extracting victims and perhaps, most important, how to set up incident command centers.
These command centers help create order out of chaos. They act as neighborhood centers where trained volunteers can properly assess what should be done first. In addition, they act as gathering places for the injured so that medical teams can efficiently deal with the wounded. In many cases, essentials such as blankets, medical supplies, and tools are stored in these locations.
The trained CERT volunteers, along with the trained professionals, make a formidable network – prepared tohandle any area disaster should one occur.
CERT classes are being held regularly and are open to anyone wishing to volunteer. These classes cover a wide range of subjects. All of which are applicable not only for use in disasters, but can also help in everyday living. They act as a refresher in first aid and remind you of simple acts you can perform to make your home a safer place. Accidents and emergencies happen to us all, and preparedness will help you to deal with them effectively. Even better, they may help you avoid them.
If you are interested in volunteering to become a trained CERT member you can log onto www.bereadysrv.com. You can also go to www.firedepartment.com and click on the Community Outreach section to sign up for CERT classes.