Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Asset Or Liability
Originally published July 30, 2012

Asset or liability? Terms normally reserved for bean counters, accountants and other bookkeeping types. In the event of a disaster there are both. Those who are part of the problem and those who are part of the solution. Assets and liabilities. I have mentioned in past columns about the probable lack of ability of our first responders to answer every need in the event a major disaster. Not through any fault of theirs. The first responders I know are dedicated professionals who train ceaselessly and devote their lives to public service. It’s simply a matter of being overwhelmed when anything of disastrous significance occurs. It is routinely understood among fire, EMS and law enforcement people that they will be unable to respond to many calls for assistance. In short, they need more assets.

My wife and I spent a recent weekend attending Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) training. Along with twenty others we had classes on first-aid, triage, light search and rescue, terrorism and other related topics. The concept of a trained cadre of citizens was developed by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985 to augment their staff in time of disaster. Today the program is under the covering of F.E.M.A. and the administration trickles down to the local fire departments through the county’s Emergency Services Co-ordinator. C.E.R.T. volunteers were recently activated during the recent rash of tornadoes in the south and last year in the Joplin, Missouri, tornado.

On March 11, 2011, when the tsunami from the Japanese earthquake threatened our coast, a dozen CERT members from Astoria and neighboring towns were activated. The team reported to a local elementary school to set up a tsunami shelter. They brewed coffee and prepared food for the firefighters who had been up all night trying to warn people to relocate, as well as for citizens who came to weather a possible tsunami wave. The CERT staged these activities from its "CERTmobile" a former ambulance that not only has food-preparation space, but also holds emergency equipment, including chainsaws, generators, floodlights, traffic signs, and radios for all law enforcement and amateur radio channels. The CERT coordinators kept in constant contact with amateur radio operators observing conditions along the coast.

The CERT members staffed the post until it became clear later that morning that their area would not be hit by the tsunami, although parts of the southern Oregon and northern California coasts were damaged.

It’s your call. Asset? Or liability? The training will be offered again in a few months and will benefit anyone who attends. Not only that, but your newfound skills and energy will become an asset to your community. If interested contact Glenda Hales, Coos County Emergency Management, get your name on the list for training.

As always comments or questions may be sent to me at disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson