Disaster training seminar prepares students, citizens
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
In times of emergency, what five items should be packed?
This question was posed this past Saturday to local residents and students alike who participated in a class sponsored by Community Emergency Response Training, a program dedicated to the education and preparation of communities for disasters of any kind. During the classes on Friday and Saturday, several topics were covered––“Disaster Preparedness,” “Animals in Disasters,” “Terrorism,” “Search & Rescue,” “Fire Safety” and “Disaster Psychology.”
“My kit would be different than yours,” Robert George, program manager of Citizen Corp, a public education and community outreach program based on emergency preparation, said. “The first thing in mine would be my reading glasses.”
This question was asked to get participants thinking of what is truly needed in event of an emergency, George said. He said what is brought varies from person to person, depending on each individual’s specific needs.
The concept behind the class started in 1985 within the Los Angeles Fire Department in an effort to prepare residents for possible dangerous situations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency took over soon after, and it was eventually implemented in Delaware following 9/11.
As the publicity of disasters increases, the need to feel prepared for anything does as well. Classes like CERT give people an opportunity to get the help they need, Marcia Nickle, a six-year CERT trainer, said.
“The more exposure individuals have to preparedness tips, the better chance of survival they have,” Nickle said. “Statistics show that when people think about their preparedness, specifically what they would do to protect themselves, they are more likely to act and therefore be prepared.”
CERT classifies disasters using three main categories––natural disasters, mostly weather related incidents and man-made disasters such as terrorism and technology.
Disaster preparedness is the core of the class, George said. Though he said professional emergency responders should be contacted first, it is also essential that citizens be prepared to take care of themselves and their community.
“The whole premise of the class is that 911 is not available,” George said. “But this class is about what to do if they’re not there.”
The class talks about every type of disaster that has hit Delaware. Nor’easters in all seasons, hurricanes, flooding, power outages and chemical spills are all covered in CERT.
Hurricanes and tropical storms in particular pose a significant threat to Delawareans, Gary Laing, communications director of Delaware Emergency Management Agency said. Because of this threat, he said local residents should be prepared in event of a powerful storm.
DEMA specifically responds to a wide range of disasters in the state through coordinating efforts with counties, first responders and private businesses, Laing said. Leading up to the storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, DEMA moderates storms and provides updates to Delawareans. If a tropical storm or hurricane causes significant damage, efforts by DEMA will be made to evaluate which areas were most affected and need shelters, he said. Though DEMA focuses on all disasters, weather-related incidences are the most emphasized, Laing said.
“It’s just smart to be more aware of the possibilities and how you should respond to them,” Laing said.
In addition to storms, chemical spills pose a threat to Delawareans, George said. Trucks and trains carrying dangerous materials travel through the state daily and are all susceptible to accidents, he said.
“There was just a spill in New Jersey where the evacuation was expected to only last a few hours,” George says. “It ended up lasting two weeks.”
It is essential for all families to have a plan, a “Realistic Emergency Disaster Kit” and knowledge of evacuation procedures, George said. In addition, he said families need to figure out how they would communicate in a disaster, especially if cell phones are unavailable, he said.
Above all, George said families should think primarily of their children.
CERT student Anthony Cario, a first-year master’s student in the Disaster Science and Management Program, said he wanted to see how the program ran and how exactly they taught the subject.
The most worrisome disasters are hurricanes and tornados, Cario said. However, man-made disasters, such as spills, hazardous materials and trains, also have the potential to pose threats, he said. Because of these threats, citizens should have some familiarity with disaster training, he said.
“This was a good refresher for me,” Cario said. “It’s also a good introduction for people who have no experience with natural disasters.”
Oftentimes, people do not plan ahead during a storm, leading to shortages in medicine and food, Laing said. However, if a plan is made, these problems can be averted, he said.
Though creating emergency kits, stocking up on water and having a concrete plan are essential, Laing said the best skill to have in emergency preparedness is the ability to think.
“People need to ask, ‘How will they keep themselves, their homes and their families safe?” he said.