What do the terrorist attack in Boston, the Tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, and the minor train derailment near Tehachapi on May 20 have in common?
No, this is not some conspiracy theory, it's a pitch. All three make me think about my Community Emergency Response Team or CERT.
FEMA created the CERT program because in times of disaster, there are basically two kinds of folks: those that run away and those that run in to rescue. The problem is, as was learned in places like Mexico City after a major quake, if left the untrained; the latter often become casualties themselves.
There are then two ways that CERTs become a community asset. Most come to train, learn to prepare their homes, and take care of their own families, while some do that plus join a team. There is no commitment, because if you take the training and secure your house, that is one less home for the emergency services to worry about. The more people trained, active or not, the better a community as a whole will weather a disaster.
CERT teams are not first responders, in the Law enforcement and fire fighting sense. We are the trained neighbors, with a network of two way radios, and a few HAM operators to get real time information when the other systems have failed. We are the ones who will secure our homes and families, and then meet, and set out to help others. We are trained to do limited search and rescue, triage the injured, and set up shelters. More importantly we may be the only help coming for a couple of days, because during a major disaster (e.g. Earthquake) the "first responders" will be overwhelmed in the first 3 minutes.
CERT team members are volunteers who also help in other ways. In fire season some help run the Helicopter dip tanks, act as local look-outs and help feed and refresh the fire crews.
We have kids trained in CERT and a large share of retired folks. As a Team Leader I don't get around like I used to, but my household is better prepared thanks to the CERT training and I will do what I can for the community in a crisis. Everyone has something valuable to contribute and CERT training can help you decide where your attributes would be best employed in an emergency.
So about that May 20 train derailment with no injuries: in 1974 a rail car carrying fertilizer in Wenatchee, Washington caught fire and blew up. They found an axle and wheels two miles away. The Town of West Texas is another serious disaster caused by the fertilizer Ammonium Nitrate, a commodity also shipped by rail. Simply put there are hazards all over; in fact you can see rail cars of this type passing through downtown Tehachapi.
There is so much more I can't fit here, so for more information, please contact:
Bear Valley Springs: Jim Nelson 821-5205, Jake Anzulis 821-1867, or Fiona Nelson 821-8975
Golden Hills: David Shaw 823-9237
Sand Canyon: Bernice Romo 823-7238
Stallion Springs: Joan Clark 822-1797 or Sandy Young 822-8900
JEFFREY PHILLIPS lives in Tehachapi and is among CERT volunteers helping keep the community safer.