Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

C.E.R.T. -- Community Emergency Response Team

This may not be directly related to RVs and OHVs but it does pertain to emergency preparedness, and our RVs, if properly equipped and maintained, can serve as DRVs: Disaster Recovery Vehicles and our camping equipment can serve as emergency survival equipment -- if we know what to do and how to prepare. Camping, RVing, and OHVing may place us in situations where we need to be able to deal with emergencies without immediate professional help. Camping provides a wonderful opportunity to practice emergency preparedness and survival skills we may need in case of a natural or man made disaster in our neighborhoods.

Preparing yourself, your family, and your RV for emergencies. To be prepared you need to seek to develop skills and obtain training you may need in the event of an emergency -- a natural disaster in your neighborhood or getting lost or stranded while camping. A good place to start is by joining your local Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.). Smaller communities or places with transient populations like areas where vacation cabins are located probably won't have a C.E.R.T. program but may have their own emergency preparedness programs and you may be able to become part of the local volunteer fire department. Volunteer fire fighter training is also a good way to develop skills you might need during an emergency.  It has been said "You are the only first responder you can really count on."  That is especially true when you are camping or participating in outdoor recreational activities in remote areas but it could well apply to a disaster situation at home.  In any major incident, standard Emergency Services are going to be overwhelmed for some time.  Figure 3 days to 2 weeks before things will start getting back to anything approaching normal.

As a First Responder your own safety is always your first priority.   While that may not seem very heroic, it is essential.  The last thing you need to do is become another victim.  Looking out for yourself and your fellow C.E.R.T. team members first ensures you do not add to the victim pool but remain available to help victims of the original incident.  Taking care of yourself is NOT a selfish act.  Did you know more would-be rescuers are injured or killed than initial victims of a disaster?  That is mostly due to well-intentioned but poorly executed rescue attempts by untrained people.

Community Emergency Response Teams are comprised of volunteers who are trained by local fire departments to provide first responder emergency services in a disaster situation. In a major disaster, such as an earthquake, tornado, widespread flooding, or winter storm, local emergency services agencies are going to be overwhelmed. It could be a couple of weeks before anything resembling normal services can be restored. What are YOU going to do if response to a 911 call -- if you can even make one! -- is two days or even two weeks out? Community Emergency Response Teams are designed to provide first responder services in their neighborhoods and then where ever they might be assigned by local emergency services professionals. I present a pitch for C.E.R.T. here on my RVs and OHVs blog to encourage campers to avail themselves of this valuable training. As previously mentioned in my post on Camping and Survival Skills, the worst possible thing you can do in an emergency situation is panic. Preparation, including C.E.R.T. training, is a key to avoiding panic. I have taken C.E.R.T. training from fire departments in large metropolitan cities and in small rural communities and, since the program has been standardized under FEMA, the training is consistent and effective and easily adapted to the unique threats individual areas might face.

The training one receives as a member of a Community Emergency Response Team can be invaluable in a disaster. C.E.R.T. members are trained in emergency response procedures, fire suppression, first aid and medical triage, disaster psychology, and light search and rescue. The mission of C.E.R.T. is "to do the most good for the most people". A C.E.R.T. member's first priority is their own safety and the safety of other team members. C.E.R.T. members are not authorized to enter heavily damaged buildings nor engage in any rescue attempt that would put themselves or others, including well-meaning volunteers, in further danger.  One of the hardest things a C.E.R.T. volunteer might have to do is try restrain someone who is intent on putting themselves and others in danger in an attempt rescue a loved one. C.E.R.T. volunteers are not authorized to physically restrain people but are trained to guide and direct people away from hazardous situations.  If someone is hell bent to enter a burning or collapsing structure against your advice, you can't stop them. 

C.E.R.T. training is usually provided by the local fire department. The C.E.R.T. program originated in earthquake-prone southern California but has been adopted by FEMA and adapted for all kinds of disaster situations. Contact your local fire department to learn if they have a C.E.R.T. program and when the next class is scheduled. Classes are usually quite inexpensive, sometimes even free. Make sure any class you take is legitimate and that the credentials you receive are valid. I have heard of well-meaning folks creating their own C.E.R.T. classes. They made up their own manuals, instead of using the FEMA-approved training materials. They charged about twice the normal cost of fire department sponsored classes (many times community sponsored courses are free!) and conducted them on just 2 Saturdays instead of the regular 2 nights a week for 10 weeks an authorized C.E.R.T. course requires. I expect the training they delivered was potentially better than no training at all, but their graduates may be lacking in critical skills and hands on practice and their credentials are not recognized by official C.E.R.T. programs or other emergency response organizations.  C.E.R.T. folks are usually recognized by EMS organizations as valuable resources and not just ordinary citizens to be kept at bay.  One of our C.E.R.T. instructors reported being allowed though a police roadblock during a local emergency because of the C.E.R.T. sticker on his windhshield and the C.E.R.T. ID card in his wallet.

I had the privilege of getting my initial C.E.R.T. training from two premier southern California fire departments, both of which are leaders in C.E.R.T.. C.E.R.T. was invented by the Ventura County Fire Department and refined and formalized by the Los Angeles City Fire Department, who is often credited with having invented it. It has since been adopted by FEMA as a nationwide program. I have since re-certified in a more rural environment where local trainers have included helpful survival tips that are specific to our location and the kinds of recreational activities folks engage in around here. As far as I'm concerned, you can never get too much training! One of our local C.E.R.T. leaders has participated in at last a dozen mock disaster training classes, was one of the responders to the 9/11 disaster at the Pentagon, and yet still claims he learns more from being part of local C.E.R.T. classes than any of the other, more expensive professional (and military) courses he has attended-- and he learns something new from each iteration.

I urge everyone whose health will permit it, to seek C.E.R.T. training. Then, if/when a disaster strikes (natural or man-made, at home, at work, in camp, or on the trail) you'll be better equipped to take care of yourself, your family, your companions, and your neighbors. It will also provide you with fundamental skills for handling any emergency situation.

When a disaster strikes, your first responsibility is to yourself. You must take care of yourself first. This is NOT a selfish concept. If you are injured in the initial disaster or allow yourself to be injured attempting to help others, you will become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. In order to be an effective rescuer, you must first tend to your own needs -- physical, emotional, and spiritual. Your next responsibility is to take care of your immediate family. Only then are you emotionally able to move on to help your neighbors or lend assistance to professional emergency service personnel. If you rush out to help others before taking care of yourself and our family, you are likely to lose focus for the task at hand as you dwell on the status of your family. Once you have all your ducks in order, you can help others. If you don't take time to care for your own needs, you will not be as effective as you need to be in taking care of others. When conducting search and rescue operations, your primary responsibility is the safety of your team (including yourself). You won't be any good to anyone if you become injured or trapped along with the victims you are trying to help. Your priorities are: 1 your personal safety, 2 your family safety, 3, safety of fellow team members, 4 safety of the community. The first thing you will do when you respond to an emergency situation is do a size up to determine the nature and extent of the circumstances and whether it is within the scope of C.E.R.T. to attempt rescues or if you should simply control the perimeter to prevent further injures.  Remember, you are the only first responder you can really count on.

What does C.E.R.T. cover?  Major topics include disaster medical services, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, fire prevention and suppression, and terrorism.  Medical services and fire suppression are probably the topics that will be most applicable to camping and RVing but even disaster psychology will be useful and you may even find applications for light search and rescue techniques, so pretty much the whole course will be well worth your time.

C.E.R.T. is not for the weak of stomach or the timid. but just about anyone can be C.E.R.T. trained.  If you can't handle the thought of dealing with seriously injured victims you will need to work on your attitude. You must prepare yourself for what could be unpleasant tasks. As a C.E.R.T. member you may be called upon to perform emotionally charged tasks as you deal with trapped and/or injured or even dead people. Disasters can create gruesome injuries which you may or may not be able to treat. And no matter how good your treatment is, seriously injured people may still die. You have to prepare yourself to deal with it. In C.E.R.T. training you will be taught how to perform medical triage -- to identify and treat the most severe injuries first. Our tendency as compassionate human beings is to provide assistance to injured people right away, but that isn't always the best approach. While splinting a broken arm or bandaging a non-life threatening wound, another victim, who could have been saved by timely treatment, may die. Therefore, it is essential to understand the full scope of all injuries among all victims before beginning treatment -- except for obvious life threatening injuries. You will also be taught how to do a "sixty second assessment" to evaluate the medical status of victims in 60 seconds or less. You will be given training in first aid and CPR and taught how to identify and provide appropriate immediate treatment for life-threatening injuries and conditions. One of the hardest things you may have to do in a real disaster situation is identify and process people who didn't -- or won't -- survive. You may also find it difficult to inform highly vocal but lightly injured victims that they'll have to wait while you deal with folks with life-threatening injuries. One of my C.E.R.T. instructors insists duct tape is an invaluable resource when dealing with such people! Yes, it may be necessary to restrain some victims, both for their own good and to prevent them from injuring others or interfering in critical tasks. Another handy device for restraining potentially dangerous people are plastic cable ties. Even law enforcement sometimes uses them in lieu of handcuffs. While C.E.R.T. volunteers do not have law enforcement training or authority, sometimes you must simply use common sense to ensure the safety of you, your team, and your victims.   In one of our C.E.R.T. exercises we had a victim who, due to a confused sate of mind caused my a head injury, kept wandering off. One solution is to assign another "walking wounded" to keep an eye on such people. Lacking that you may have to restrain them for their own safety and the safety of other victims and rescuers. By the way, giving people something useful to do is a very good way of helping them as well as helping you as a rescuer. 

C.E.R.T. Organization. C.E.R.T. operates under the authority and direction of the local emergency services team. C.E.R.T. may be called into service by the local emergency services professionals but may also, by design, voluntarily take charge of their own neighborhoods until professional help arrives. C.E.R.T. does not replace professional emergency services personnel, but acts to provide care and mitigate circumstances until emergency service can arrive. In the event of a large-scale disaster professional services may be unavailable for weeks and you may be the only help around. By convention and direction, the first C.E.R.T. member to arrive at a scene becomes the Incident Commander and remains in charge of the scene until professional rescuers arrive or he voluntarily turns over command to someone else -- which he should do before he becomes too exhausted to function effectively. That means the C.E.R.T. trained teenager next door could be your Incident Commander, even if you are a paramedic or a doctor! If that happens, your job is to support him any way you can, not try to usurp his authority! It is likely that an inexperienced Incident Commander will voluntarily turn the job over to more seasoned personnel when they arrive, but if he/she doesn't, do your best to be supportive. The Incident Commander is responsible to identify and organize resources available to assist people in his immediate area. Resources may include people, equipment, tools, medical supplies, transportation, shelter, food and water. The first priority for the Incident Commander is the safety of team members. Next is the safety of other people within his jurisdiction. He will be responsible for designating team members to take charge of specific C.E.R.T. tasks such as logistics (collecting, inventorying, and managing resources), medical treatment, morgue, fire suppression, search and rescue, transportation, and communication. Depending on the circumstances and resources available he may organize search and rescue teams to extricate victims from lightly damaged buildings. In the case of heavily damaged buildings or events involving hazardous materials, C.E.R.T. is charged with establishing a safe perimeter and keeping unauthorized people away from the scene. Since C.E.R.T. personnel have no law enforcement authority and do not carry weapons, keeping unauthorized people out of a hazardous area largely consists of monitoring the perimeter and informing would-be intruders of the danger.  You can usually let them know that professional rescurers have been called and are on their way to assist victims in the restricted area.   In most disaster scenarios, more would-be rescuers are injured or die than there are initial victims. Well-intentioned but untrained citizens rush to the aid of their friends and neighbors and even strangers, without regard for their own safety or an understanding of the additional risk their actions may pose for themselves and for existing victims. YOU do not want to be one of those people! By getting C.E.R.T training, you will know what you can and can't do to assist and be prepared to fulfill the C.E.R.T. mission to do the most good for the most people. Sometimes doing the most good may mean keeping people from entering a heavily damaged building or away from hazardous materials.

In a disaster situation, the general public will be seeking leadership and instruction. Most people will not be adequately prepared to deal with loss of utilities and emergency services. They won't have a clue what to do when they can't just call 911. That is where having C.E.R.T. training comes in. The more people who get trained, the better any neighborhood is able to handle its own needs in a disaster. You may find yourself the ONLY C.E.R.T. trained individual on your block or at your place of employment and people are going to look to you for guidance. Following the Northridge Earthquake in California in 1994 I donned my C.E.R.T. gear (hard hat and safety vest) and began checking on some of my friends and neighbors. Everywhere I went people came out of their homes all around anxiously seeking information and direction. Fortunately we were far enough from the epicenter that there was not a lot of heavy damage in our neighborhood, but I was at least able to provide some assurance of that to worried people and give them some basic instructions regarding their immediate safety and what they could do to prepare for aftershocks and, perhaps, how to deal with extended loss of utilities.

Becoming C.E.R.T. trained will give you confidence and peace of mind that you will know what to do if/when disaster strikes. That makes it well worth the few weeks and modest cost (if any) of training.

C.E.R.T Rules!

1 comment:

  1. You people are doing a fabulous job really. High appreciated! I don't know these services are available in Texas or not but it will definitely give other people a chance to help others while learning some great survival skills.