The CERT program is designed to teach neighbors to help their neighbors in case of a natural disaster or large scale emergency situation. When a massive earthquake occurs, first responders will be overwhelmed, utilities will be out, and everyone will be limited to the resources in their immediate area. CERT teaches people to organize and plan ahead for an immediate response such as locating people trapped in buildings, identifying and treating the injured, and communicating with the local authorities. It then extends to sheltering, feeding, and caring for people for a few days to a few weeks until outside help arrives.
These classes are important because Huntington Beach is disadvantaged by geography. We have a ridiculously high number of fault lines. Almost every entrance to the city is a bridge over a freeway or drainage channel. If the bridges collapse the city will be isolated. Even if they don't, the city is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of other people who would be in the same situation as us. The good news is the city is aware of this and has done a lot of planning and preparing.
There were four classes in the program I completed. In them I learned:
- How to triage a large group of injured people.
- To operate a fire extinguisher
- How to use levers to lift thousands of pounds.
- How to make an oven out of cardboard boxes and aluminum foil.
- Light search and rescue (they emphasize light).
- How to mark buildings as searched.
- Basic first aid including how to make a sling.
- How to transport people using blankets, chairs, and sticks.
- Proper storage of emergency supplies
- How to set up a shelter.
- How to check people for injuries.
- What to do with dead bodies.
I am planning on continuing with a few more training classes so I can become a fire department volunteer. This means when there is county level situation I can assist other cities. For example, when there is a big wildfire they will put out a call for volunteers who can provide logistical support for the firefighters and police. Volunteers will check people in, drive people around, and do things so the professionals can concentrate their trained manpower to fight fires and close roads.
The next step is for me to start a CERT team in my neighborhood. I should talk to my neighbors and ask them to join me in storing supplies, learning basic skills, and developing a plan for the next big earthquake.