I grew up in the Bay Area if California and was present during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. That day, I was in class at SF State and I was scheduled to have my creative writing class that Tuesday evening, but it was cancelled, which allowed me to get home right before the earth shook. I remember not really thinking about it as it happened. I didn’t panic or cry. I just sat on my bed as it swayed and asked my mom if that was an earthquake. It was. Then the power went out.
When we tried to buy emergency supplies, the corner liquor store was gouging and charging $10 a battery. Since then, we were always semi-prepared. We didn’t have go bags ready, nor supplies of food or water. We always thought it wasn’t really necessary.
I now live in Sacramento and I’ve seen what natural and man made disasters can do. After watching the Napa fires in 2017, I felt the need to help. At first, I looked at the Red Cross for classes, but they charged money, something that was in limited supply. I continued to look. I can’t recall how I landed on the Sacramento CERT page. I remember reading a bunch of blogs and articles on the net. But, there it was. Community Emergency Response Team. Just what I was looking for.
I immediately signed up, and even stalked them at the annual Our Promise kick-off event that year, because I was excited. I wanted to get started right away. But I had just missed the start of the Fall academy. Dammit, I had to wait another 5 months before I could start. Ok.. .I was still excited. By the time Spring Academy started, I had convinced my friend Cathy to take the class with me.
So, what do you learn from CERT? What don’t you? Just kidding. They teach many things including learning how to size up a building to enter after a disaster (if it’s safe or not). They teach basic search and rescue, basic first aid, and other skills that can be useful to respond to disasters anywhere. I’ve learned how to use a fire extinguisher to put out an actual fire, which was fun, and I’ve learned that communication is key.
As a CERT member, everyone has skills and the only limitations is your drive. If you want to help, there is always something you can do, whether it be scribing for an Emergency Medical Response team member, being a runner to deliver messages or equipment to other teams, or helping keep the equipment trailers organized. In order to be deployable, however, you need to take more classes and have more training. Learning and improving/honing skills are how CERT members stay sharp for disasters.
I recommend everyone take the basic level CERT training. The information obtained is useful in all situations and it never hurts to be prepared.
Do you have a go bag ready? What steps have you taken to be prepared where you live? Do you have a go bag for your pets? Your kids? Is your neighborhood prepared? Do you have two different routes out of your community during an evacuation?