It seems that in the last two decades or so, natural and man-made disasters have become a more visible reality of everyday life. A major disaster can happen at any time, and it’s our own responsibility to become prepared.
After Hurricane Katrina, we were shocked to realize that we are vulnerable and that we must take responsibility for our own safety as well as the safety of our families and neighbors. Emergency preparedness must become a way of life in order to deal with disasters, and it no longer works hiding behind “that won’t happen to me” attitude.
Do you know how to protect your family in the event of a natural disaster, such as a wildfire, a flood, or an earthquake?
How about an active shooter scenario or a terrorist attack?
You can reduce uncertainty, fear, and panic, as well as damage to your property, and you can increase your chances of survival. Individuals, families, and communities can all take action to be better prepared.
Your primary concern should be your own safety, as well as the safety of your family and, eventually, other disaster victims.
You need to survive
I always tell people that when a catastrophic disaster occurs, whether natural or man-made, they must be prepared to survive without local government assistance for at least five days. They need to survive on their own since there’s no telling when and if exterior help can reach them.
If transportation, power, water, phone, and other essential services are disrupted, you must be prepared at home, at work, and in your vehicle. Public services, such as fire and police departments, could be disrupted and tested to their limits.
There may not be enough first responders to respond to neighborhood emergency calls for assistance. Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, you will realize that you are on your own until help arrives, and you must be prepared to survive until emergency rescue personnel, or first responders can reach you.
Community emergency response team (CERT)
This is where an interagency organization can assist the average person and community in being prepared to deal with unusual—but highly consequential—emergencies.
CERT is a volunteer community effort that is part of the US Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Citizen Corps program.
This program, which is a 20-hour course developed by FEMA, is free of charge. The course is typically taught over the course of four non-consecutive days
It is intended to prepare you to assist yourself, your family, and your neighbors in the event of a major disaster.
So how about FEMA?
Who do you turn to, and where do you begin to prepare for a major disaster? What kind of assistance can you anticipate from your local communities?
If you would ask your fellow neighbors these two questions, most of them will tell you that it’s FEMA’s job and they will come to the rescue.
If you go on the FEMA website, you will see the following statement:
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supports our citizens, and first responders, ensuring that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.”
FEMA provides a free program through which you can learn about the incentive for the CERT program, how it works at the local level, and what CERT provides as a disaster volunteer program.
Anyone who takes the CERT course will benefit from it in the long run. Everyone has a place in CERT, from team leader to the average Joe.
The CERT course will better prepare you to respond to and cope with disaster aftermath.
CERT teams can provide immediate assistance to victims in their area, organize untrained volunteers, and collect disaster intelligence to assist professional responders with prioritization and resource allocation following a disaster.
Since 1993, when FEMA made this training available nationally, there have been over 2,700 registered CERT programs providing CERT training. Even more, since it became a national program, more than 600,000 people have been trained.
Because emergency personnel will not be able to help everyone right away when a disaster strikes, you can help by using the CERT training you receive to save lives and protect property.
For example, if a family member or neighbor suffers a serious bleeding injury during a disaster, they will require the help of others in the community to administer basic first aid to stop the bleeding. Without the assistance of neighbors, the injured person could die in a short period of time.
If you want to find out more about the CERT program in your area, the Redy.gov website will help you find your local CERT.
Becoming good people
I grew up in a relatively big town, and my parents taught my brother and me to be aware of everything around us. You may say that it sounds like paranoia, but for us, this passive awareness, in time, became a survival instinct. In the military, we’ve learned that what we were practicing back home, they called it situational awareness.
And if you want to stay alive on the battlefield or pretty much in any environment you can name, it is critical to be aware of one’s surroundings and identify potential threats and dangerous situations, including criminal situations.
Vigilance cannot be taught, and it’s a trait that you learn through life experiences. However, this trait is rare amongst people nowadays since most young folks out there have their headphones on and their faces glued to their smartphones.
The first principle of personal defense is alertness, and it’s more of a mindset than a skill. Some people are born with it, while others must learn and practice this skill if they want to be vigilant.
Situational awareness is an essential skill not only for your personal safety but also for collective security.
We should be able to meet the needs of our families for an extended period of time, whether at work, at home, or on the road. To survive, we must all learn to be our own emergency response team.
The more we learn about emergency preparedness and how to stay safe, the less fearful we will be when the proverbial brown stuff hits the fan, and the better we will be able to function.
Some may not like it, but we’re all in this together and will need to rely on one another to meet any immediate needs in the aftermath of a disaster. The more we work together, the more lives we will be able to save.
Covering the basics
Some of us are preppers, while others are just concerned citizens trying to understand what can be done to stay when things go south. You do not have to be a prepper to provide for the basic needs of your family, such as food, water, and medicine.
These are the supplies each American should have at home, at work, and in their cars. You cannot predict when a disaster will occur, and you need to have these basics covered wherever you find yourself.
Those that survived Katrina understood that they needed to have food, water, and medications that should last them at least a week. A lot of these folks have become preppers because they never again want to experience what it means to be unprepared during a large-scale disaster.
There is no exact recipe for success when it comes to storing supplies, and you need to do it at your own pace. Think about getting canned foods with a long shelf life for your home or office, and keep some ready-to-eat foods in your car. You will also need to have a supply of clean water in your home and store some water bottles at work and in your car.
The next items you need to include are your medications and first-aid supplies items. Here, the needs can vary from one person to another, but your duty is to make sure you’re never separated from your medications and supplies.
Learn to save a life
During CERT training, you will learn that most people will require medical assistance in a large-scale disaster, and you need to learn how to save a life. In fact, everyone’s survival within a community will depend on the ability of their neighbors to mitigate three key factors in case of injuries.
You need to establish if the victim is breathing, and this becomes your first and main concern in case of potential injuries. If the victim is not breathing, tilt their head back and open their jaw to allow airflow.
In some cases, you will need to perform CPR, so it’s mandatory to learn how to do it properly. If CPR is done wrong, besides reducing the victim’s chances of survival, it can also result in broken or cracked ribs and/or sternum fractures caused by improperly-administered chest compressions. This often occurs for children and the elderly during improperly-administered CPR.
If that’s the case, you need to understand that death can occur within minutes if you do not stop the bleeding. Uncontrolled bleeding becomes a big problem during an emergency situation, and it will cause the victim to go into shock.
Apply direct pressure on the bleeding wound using a clean pad or cloth, and you should continue to apply pressure until the bleeding stops. You also need to elevate the wound above the heart since it allows the blood to circulate back to the heart without fighting gravity.
The good news is that more than 95 of bleeding wounds can be controlled by direct pressure and elevation. The bad news is that for the other remaining bleeding wounds, you will need to use hemostatic agents or surgery to stop the bleeding.
Is the victim in shock?
To figure this out, you should learn to recognize the main signs of shock, which include rapid and shallow breathing, inability to follow simple commands such as “squeeze my hand,” and capillary refill of over to seconds. These symptoms are often missed due to panic and the inability of the rescuer to observe the patient carefully.
If a person is in shock, lay him/her on their back and elevate their feet between 6 and 10 inches. Make sure you’re doing this after controlling the bleeding. Another thing you need to do is make sure the victim maintains a proper body temperature, and you can wrap their body using an emergency blanket. Loosen tight clothing if needed and keep the victim comfortable.
Never give food and drink to someone in shock since they may vomit anything you administer them orally, and this could result in choking. If the victim requires fluids, an intravenous line should be attached by those able to do so.
CERT helps you become part of the solution
I encourage everyone to follow a CERT program since they will gain knowledge of immense value that can be successfully used during an emergency situation to save family members, neighbors, or fellow employees.
It is important to learn how to help each other because, during a large-scale disaster, it may be too late before exterior helps arrives. With CERT training, you will know what to do, how, and when to do it, and eventually, you will become part of the solution, not the problem.
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