Friday, April 28, 2006

Emergency Preparedness

GANA Speaker Series
Mark Brostoff
Chair, Monroe County Citizens Corps Council

8:00 – 9:00 p.m. April 28, 2006 (after our monthly meeting, see meeting report)

Mark described the history and purpose of the Citizens Corps Council and its CERT training for emergency preparedness in neighborhoods.

The Process
"CERT" means Community Emergency Response Team. Mark wants to put these teams in place in every Bloomington neighborhood, with Green Acres as the first neighborhood to model this idea in action.

Citizens Corps (with its motto, "Uniting communities, preparing the nation") was instituted in the wake of 9/11 by the newly formed Homeland Security Department as a way to bring emergency preparedness to cities and neighborhoods. Monroe County has received $50,000 for this purpose over the past three years. Its most popular program is CERT, started in 1985 in LA after the Mexico City earthquake when 100 rescuers died because they weren't trained.

The CERT mission is to "do the greatest good for the greatest number." CERT training prepares regular citizens to work during the first 72 hours of a disaster, before professional first responders (EMT, police and firemen) arrive.

Certified CERT teams work in pairs; they wear special gloves, helmet, vest and backpack full of first-aid and other needed equipment (like a big wrench and a crowbar) and go door-to-door to ascertain the condition of each home and its occupants. (Their equipment comes at no cost, via Homeland Security Department.) They identify who needs help, administer basic first aid, turn off gas, put out small fires, and are trained to help psychologically with people in shock and otherwise suffering. CERT teams do not self-deploy, but respond when called upon by the local CERT captain.

Google CERT to find out more information about this program that can help us help each other during any emergency.

As Mark presented the CERT program, one by one he removed all the equipment from a CERT backpack (besides crow bar, wrench, first aid, also a mask, goggles, space blanket, and so on). The training takes 21 hours, can be done in a variety of time frames, and concludes with a simulated disaster.

Mark has trained three local teams so far, two for IU, and one for a local company. Green Acres would be the first neighborhood to have a CERT team in place. To get our imaginations going, we discussed what, for example, might happen if a train full of toxic gas derailed in Green Acres.

Fifteen people are needed for a training, in our case about ten people from Green Acres and Mark would fill in the rest with others on a CERT training waiting list. He stressed that Citizens Corps prefer intergenerational teams, to include older people and even teenagers. By the time he was done, and we asked for a show of hands, to our surprise seven people wanted to sign up: Georgia Schaich, Kim Fernandez, John Gaus, Betty Byrne, Julia Jackson, Nathan Harmon, and Ann Kreilkamp. Even this many, Mark says, is probably enough for him to fill out a team, but I hope that there are a few teenagers in the neighborhood who would like to do this with us! Anyone out there?

We decided that the best way for us is to do the 21-hour training in one weekend plus another half-weekend, sometime in October. He will let us know what dates are possible.

If you wish to be a member of this team—learn a valuable skill, bond with your neighbors, be on call to help the rest of your neighbors, sport a spiffy CERT backpack and vest and helmet that remains in your possession unless and until you move out of Monroe County, let me know. Thanks.

And thanks, Mark, for arousing us to appreciate the necessity and availability of this timely training. I, for one, was stunned to realize that I wanted to join the Green Acres CERT team.

Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

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