A little training can go a long way to help a community when a natural disaster strikes

We look at the pictures and say,

It’s too bad they don’t have our building standards there.

We tell ourselves,

That won’t happen to me.

We rationalize that,

There will always be help available.

But really, we’re just kidding ourselves.
Dear Editor,

We look at the pictures and say, “It’s too bad they don’t have our building standards there.” We tell ourselves, “That won’t happen to me.” We rationalize that, “There will always be help available.” But really, we’re just kidding ourselves.

The images from Haiti, Indonesia, New Orleans and Chile, where nature has overwhelmed humanity, show how difficult surviving after a disaster can be.

We see people trapped under rubble – medical needs far outstripping the resources available. People struggle to find just the basics they need to survive. Unfortunately, the pictures don’t teach us how to prepare for an event.

The Los Angeles Fire Department developed the concept of Community Emergency Response Teams or CERT. The idea was, and is, to train individuals within a community to care for themselves following a major disaster.

The 1987 Whittier Earthquake underscored the need for this training. Following the events for Sept. 11, 2001, government officials saw the need to increase the number of individuals that could help support local first responders.

In January 2002, the president created Citizen Corps as a national program to unite communities and prepare the nation. Here in South County, training individuals on how to take care of themselves in the initial hours of a disaster falls on Gilroy and Morgan Hill CERT. The first premise of CERT training is teaching individuals on how to take care of themselves.

The old adage was you need to be able to provide for yourself for three days. After Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, agencies are telling us to be ready for at least five days on our own.

“Events like the recent communications cable cut show us just how fragile the infrastructure can be in the event of a disaster,” said Randy Christensen, Morgan Hill CERT Team Leader. “If people would just take a little time to learn, they would see that it’s not too hard to prepare yourself for what is coming.”

The CERT Training Program includes classes on disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, terrorism and the CERT organization itself.

Classes are a combination of lecture and hands-on practice.

Gilroy and Morgan Hill CERTs have two free training classes starting soon. The first session runs on Wednesday evenings starting March 24 at 7 p.m. The seven classes are two and a half hours long and run until May 12 with a break for Easter. These classes will be held at the Morgan Hill Police Department at 16200 Vineyard Blvd in the EOC Training Room. The second session will run on alternating Saturdays starting April 17 at 8 a.m. These sessions go until 4 p.m. The classes will be held at the Sunrise Fire Station in Gilroy (880 Sunrise Dr.). Both sessions will end with a disaster simulation class and graduation on Saturday, May 15. For more information and to register for the classes, please visit the Gilroy CERT website at www.GilroyCERT.com or the Morgan Hill CERT website at www.MHCERT.com.

Brent Jenkins, Gilroy CERT Team Leader