Crises test our preparedness

DOWNEY - A number of stories of heroism, heartbreak and potential problems have hit the news stands recently. We don't have to travel too far or look too hard to find situations that could seriously impact our lives. Sadly, many of these events happen in an instant and give no time for preparation.The members of the Tucson community and their police and fire departments were recently forced to join their efforts instantaneously. They did their best to remedy the problem and help the victims of a shooting rampage. The stories are still coming in, but the fast-actions of a few bystanders helped interrupt the shooting and stopped the rampage. Citizen first-aid and CPR definitely helped. So did the actions of some on-scene medical professionals. Having a doctor quickly triage the large number of wounded patients was very helpful. His early direction to those helping the wounded was important. When the first responders arrived, they were able to move directly to the most critically injured, saving valuable time. Transporting those who were in the greatest need of immediate hospital care first was clearly important for the best outcomes. Having hospitals prepared to accept the traumatically injured patients was a critical factor in the emergency response as well. The question is what would we do if we were in that situation? The odds are very slim we would face something so horrible. But there are traffic accidents and other types of emergency incidents that occur frequently in our area. Sometimes these unfortunate events involve our own friends or family members. Do we know how to call-in an emergency? Where are we calling from? Do we have the numbers pre-programmed in our cell phones? Are we knowledgeable in first-aid and CPR? Having medical professionals at the scene of an emergency isn't something we can plan on. We have very competent and professional police and fire departments in Downey. However, it takes a few minutes for them to arrive. They could even be delayed because of other incidents. We can find ourselves in predicaments when we are out of town, as well, and without the service of our local police and fire departments. We can take simple steps to be a little more prepared. Each year first aid and CPR courses are offered in our area. It is a great investment of our time to devote a few hours to such a worthy cause. Have a first aid kit and know how to use it. It's amazing how much more comfortable we feel in very uncomfortable emergency situations when we have some training and supplies. The east coast of our country has been pummeled by some challenging weather this winter. Snow, wind, ice and severe cold have caused lots of problems. Access to public services and supplies is a real challenge for those who live in the northeast this season. Obviously we don't have weather problems like the northeast but we did have our share of problems a month ago, when it rained for a week. A recent report by FEMA and some credible people, like Lucy Jones of Cal-Tech, have pointed out we have other threats here in Southern California besides earthquakes. Apparently, their research has found California is at risk for an ARk Storm. The 'AR' stands for atmospheric river, the 'k' is for 1000 as a value on a scale of atmospheric rivers. They believe a severe 'pineapple express' type weather abnormality is very possible. The news media has recently picked up this story. They have reported we could be at risk to receive rainfall measured in feet and not inches over the course of a period of weeks. This phenomenon occurred in the 1860's in California. The flood of 1860-1861 caused an amazing amount of damage across the state. The experts are predicting damages to 1 in 4 homes in the state if an ARk Storm were to occur today. If the storm were to occur, the damage would be much greater than that of a major earthquake because of the widespread impacts of the flooding across the state. Again, we should ask ourselves, what can we do for our families to minimize or avoid the loss and the damage? In the case of a flood, being prepared for an earthquake is a great start. We can have an emergency plan and know how to communicate with our families in several ways. We can have more than one pre-arranged meeting place, just in case we can't get back to our homes. We can have copies of our important records and documents ready to take with us if we are forced to leave the area. We can also have a change of clothes and some emergency supplies prepared to carry with us. We can even have a few maps of the area to help us navigate away from the flooding. Not all emergencies surprise us without warning. Sometimes we have some time to prepare. Let's use a little of our discretionary time to make an emergency plan, to assemble an emergency supply kit, to talk with our children and neighbors and to think about what we would do if we were faced with a few of the disasters we have recently heard about. Pre-planning our response and sharing our plans with others will help us get through the emergency and get back to normal faster. The city will be hosting Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training in April. The course includes 24 hours of training on three consecutive Saturdays. Several hundred community members have already completed the CERT training and have said they feel much more prepared at home and in their neighborhoods because of the experience. The training is free. If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to

********** Published: January 27, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 41