Your Lifesaving Plan for Personal and Community Preparedness
In 1998, I participated in training for community members presented by my local fire department. During this training, I learned valuable search and rescue tactics that I can still use today. The program is called Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
The training was over the course of 8 weeks and it was intense. The final exam had us in a mock emergency where we had to enter a smoke-filled building and then clear, and triage, victims. With encouragement and direction from my instructors, during those 8 weeks I put together my first 72-hour kit. When I was done I was ready to respond to any local emergency that might happen.
I have never had to use the tools I learned in that course but I value them as preparedness skills that may be helpful to me in the future.
A lot of time has passed since 1998 and the skills that were once so sharp and at the top of my mind have faded. I was given a copy of a new book The Neighborhood Emergency Response Handbook (Amazon) and all of the elements of my training were immediately brought back to my mind. I’m also surprised how much I forgot.
Your response begins with preparation
No one is immune to disaster. During times of storm, tornado, flood, or civil unrest your community and local services can come to a halt. This is when you are forced to be self-reliant and possibly help others. How you are able to respond begins with how you have prepared.
In desperate times, you want to have the proper tools in your mental and physical toolbox to be able to keep yourself, your family and your community safe. That’s where The Neighborhood Emergency Response Handbook comes in. It’s like having a mini CERT class in your hand.
- How to create a disaster kit.
- The science of fire, fire suppression rules, and the best extinguisher for the job.
- Light search and rescue tactics and how to size-up a situation to determine if those in danger need your help.
- Disaster first aid – this was extremely helpful to me during my CERT training.
- Disaster psychology and the effects of traumatic stress.
“In emergency situations, sometimes the need for help exceeds the resources…I cannot stress the importance of preparation enough. A basic understanding of effective disaster response can mean the difference between becoming a victim, being a spectator, or making a powerful, positive impact in an emergency situation.” Scott Finazzo
Find a network in your area
Do some homework and identify any existing groups in your immediate area. You’ll be surprised how popular this community movement has become. Here are some ideas from the book to get you started.
- Start with your local fire department public relations representative. When you call, ask if there is someone you can speak to regarding neighborhood disaster organization or response.
- Ask this person if there are any organized groups, if they offer training, and if there are any training materials available to the public.
- Join or organize a group of like-minded individuals where you can learn about the disasters that are most likely to affect your area.
Who is this book for?
Anyone that is interested in becoming prepared will find helpful information about building emergency kits and emergency first aid. If you want to be available to help others in a disaster and work with city or county officials, this book is a great introduction to the idea of the program.
If you have previously attended training and not kept up on the finer points (like me) this book;s a fantastic reminder of the methods of the program.
In my opinion, this book will not replace the need for actual training with qualified emergency personnel. It is, however, a wonderful introduction to the concept of neighborhood emergency response, and something that I think every prepared member of society should understand. This book will give you the tools you need to be a survivor, not a victim, during a disaster in your town.
Want to know more about CERT?
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) concept was developed and implemented by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. They recognized that citizens would very likely be on their own during the early stages of a catastrophic disaster. Accordingly, LAFD decided that some basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills would improve the ability of citizens to survive and to safely help others until responders or other assistance could arrive.
The training model that the LAFD initiated was adopted by other fire departments around the country, including communities where the major threat is hurricanes rather than earthquakes. Building on this development, in 1994 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expanded the CERT materials to make them applicable to all hazards and made the program available to communities nationwide. Since that time, thousands of dedicated trainers, organizations, and citizens have embraced the responsibility to learn new skills and become prepared to execute safe and effective emergency response.
To download a complete CERT Handbook go to: Fema.gov-Media Library-CERT If you don’t want to wade through 400 pages of information get the condensed version – The Neighborhood Emergency Response Handbook: Your Life-Saving Plan for Personal and Community Preparedness
About the author: Scott Finazzo has been a firefighter for nearly 20 years and currently serves as a lieutenant for the Overland Park (Kansas) Fire Department. He has been an instructor for community emergency response teams since 2000, helping to educate and prepare citizens for emergencies.