CERT Begins – Days 1 and 2 – A Critical Question is Asked

Day 1 – A Critical Question Asked


CERT class officially begins!

We started with paperwork. Not too interesting, at first. They handed out some checklists for 3-day kits, waivers, etc. One of them was an icebreaker, a simple set of questions. One of the questions “What are three things you have with your right now that you can use in case of an emergency?”

When the group went through the exercise, the answers were interesting, and it was a good way to start to get to know classmates. Some people thought their cell phones would be most important. Some people thought their vehicles would be most important, especially those with first aid kits. One other guy and I had written down “my brain” as the most important item. I’m sure that will come up later, especially when we cover “disaster psychology” (which I know is coming – I peeked ahead in the manual). This got people thinking, and led to another set of questions.

After filling out a few more forms, we started discussing three-day preparation boxes and what should go in them. After a somewhat disjointed conversation and many random questions (this idea was new to many, which is probably one of the reasons they’re in the class – good for them!), one lady thoughtfully asked “I’m a nice person and there is no way I’d be able to not help my neighbor in a time of need.  What should I do to prepare to help them?”

I’ll be honest – I don’t remember the answer the instructor gave, probably because it differed from what was bouncing around in my head at the time (or maybe my noisy, inner dialogue was drowning her out – that happens sometimes). Here is my answer:

You will need to 1) educate your neighbors, 2) prepare for them (stock supplies that they can’t or won’t), or 3) be ready to listen to them crying when you won’t give up your stores or fix their broken stuff for them. (I’m not taking evacuation scenarios into account in this case.)

Have you done that? Do you know what level of preparedness your neighbors have? Will they become assets or liabilities if a disaster affects your neighborhood? Do you think you should have answers to these questions? I think you should.

Consider these options:

  • The “Map Your Neighborhood” program (more on this later – I’ll discuss my experience doing it in my neighborhood) could be an effective solution.
  • Get to know your neighbors, if you don’t already. This used to be a common practice, but more recently it’s less common, with people moving from home to home more often, especially in more urban areas.
    • How do you do this? You’re clever. If you’re not friendly, pretend you’re friendly. You can find a way. Bake a pie and take it over. Find a way to do something nice, that fits with who you are, your best guess as to who they are, etc. Unless you’re already off to a bad start somehow, they’ll respond in kind and you’ve just kick-started a hopefully productive relationship!
  • And if you’re the gregarious type, throw a block party!

You don’t have to be a social butterfly to see the value in knowing your neighbors. They can be beneficial or a huge burden in a bad situation. Make the choice now, and educate them if they need it. And you’ll learn something in the process.

Day 2 – ICS: Incident Command System

I lumped day 2 into this article because I don’t have a lot to say about it. I have to give credit to our instructor for making it somewhat interesting by using a wedding planning analogy, but when it comes down to it, the Incident Command System just isn’t super-exciting to me.

That doesn’t mean it’s not important. We all need to get along. And by “get along”, I mean that I agree that it is useful to have a common command structure to use in the event of an emergency, along with a common language to describe who has which role, a way for different groups to work together, etc.

If you have any reason to interact with people doing CERT, Search & Rescue (SAR), or any other emergency management organizations, you should learn about the Incident Command System (ICS) because odds are very good that they’ll be using that structure.

The good news is that you don’t have to pay for it. FEMA makes training available online, and there are usually two courses you should review: ICS-100 and ICS-700.

It will take a little time, but it will also give you a good idea of what to expect on an emergency scene if you’re working with local, state, and federal government, and more often now, non-governmental organizations who also choose to follow this common (and relatively simple) set of guidelines.

Take a look for yourself. Don’t expect a page-turner, but do expect to learn at least a little bit.

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