Block captains start training for an emergency

DOWNEY - Neighborhood Watch block captains and members of the Downey CERT team received emergency and disaster readiness training on Dec. 13.Eleven block captains and 49 CERT team members attended the event at the Challenger Memorial Space Center at 12400 Columbia Way. Related handouts and laminated checklists were provided. The materials supported a specialized Power Point presentation. The program lasted an hour and a half. The objectives of the training session were to convince block captains and CERT members to: •Take certain pre-emergency planning actions, •Help others on their block after ensuring their own families and homes were safe •Be careful during and after an emergency to not become part of the emergency •Take actions to organize their blocks after an emergency strikes. The presentation started with a short briefing on the lessons learned from some of the recent disasters. Despite the competency of our local public safety emergency responders, Downey is a large city with over 110,000 residents, nearly 13 square miles of area, many special occupancies and over 200 miles of roads to check. Getting the professional service of our firefighters, police officers and public works staff will take time. Researchers have confirmed neighbors are still uniquely situated to help those nearby and that their local neighborhood knowledge is sometimes a critical factor in the rescue of others. Few have the insight and the concern for others as a good neighbor. They are frequently the first-responders to arrive on a block and to start taking care of the people and the other problems. In Joplin, Missouri neighbors helped neighbors immediately after the emergency. Their actions were a significant factor in many of the successful outcomes after the severe tornado passed. Armed with some insight from other disasters, those in attendance were encouraged to prepare themselves and their families for an emergency and to consider how they could work with their neighbors to address the forecasted problems before emergency responders could arrive. Emphasis was placed on taking action 'now' to plan for an emergency rather than waiting for something bad to occur and hoping for the best. Was it possible to develop a 'hard-copy' list of contact information at a meeting and then share it with the neighbors? How could they communicate with each other after an emergency struck without the use of telephones? What would they do if electrical power was interrupted? Who on the block had special tools or skills that may be helpful? The block captains and CERT volunteers were reminded that few knew who lived in each neighborhood house besides other family members. Who would check on neighborhood members, otherwise unable to help themselves (for example: children, seniors and those with special needs), if it wasn't the neighbors? Without a working phone and access to it, someone could be injured or trapped in their house until a friend or relative remembered to check on them. Some safety instructions were reviewed as well. Those in attendance were not encouraged to take unnecessary risks or chances. To the contrary, everyone was reminded to take good care of their head, hands and feet. Post emergency volunteers should wear protective head gear (most CERT volunteers have a green helmet), gloves and sturdy shoes. Predictable injuries like bumps, bruises and lacerations should be preventable. Keeping an old pair of shoes and gloves, with a flashlight, in a familiar place in your house (like under your bed) is a simple way to maintain your personal preparedness at home. Everyone should have a first aid kit in their home and know how to use it. The hospital emergency rooms are very busy everyday, after an emergency they will even busier. Those in attendance were reminded how important it is to know how to take care of their own household during and after an emergency. Sometimes it is necessary to shut off the natural gas supply for a home. Did they know where their gas meter was located? Did they know how to operate the shut-off and have the proper tool to do so if they smelled gas? Were they aware of the location of their water shut-off(s)? There should be a valve in front of their house and another in the water meter box. Did they have the tools to operate the valves if they were difficult to turn? What about their electric meter/ panel? Did they know how to shut down the power at the panel if they had to? There is a recommended order to turning off the breakers, were they aware of it? Only after their houses were secured were the volunteers encouraged to consider carefully venturing out and applying their skills to their neighborhood problems. Block captains and CERT members were asked how they would communicate their own status to the rest of the neighborhood after an emergency. Could they go outside and meet other neighbors? Was that their plan? Or maybe they could post a sign on their front door noting they were 'ok' and had supplies available for others. These actions were important for the neighborhood especially when taken by someone who wasn't able to help with physical activity. Remember, letting others know a house doesn't need to be searched and/or helping with the emergency supplies for others are positive, helpful actions for the neighborhood. As the focus of the presentation shifted from the actions each block captain and CERT member could take, to those actions the neighborhood could take collectively, a significant emphasis was placed on the importance of team work for emergencies. Next week the 'team' actions covered in the meeting will be reviewed in this column. The event also offered block captains and CERT volunteers the opportunity to meet and learn more about their fellow volunteers. CERT members were encouraged to start their own neighborhood watch group. Block captains were encouraged to attend the April 2012 CERT training. This was the third training session for block captains. The members of Downey CERT meet on the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at Fire Station #1 at 12222 Paramount Blvd for training and activity coordination purposes. Questions on emergency preparedness and CERT can be directed to Mark Sauter at

********** Published: December 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 36