*CERT: Learning To Save Lives (Part 1)*
By: Hikage
5 November 2002

Today was the fifth and final day of my CERT class. CERT is an acronym for Community Emergency Response Team. It is a program that many California Bay Area governments are implementing for the preparation of disasters and The Big Earthquake [tm]. (I'm sure someone has it trademarked.)

Many communities and businesses have these E.R.T. teams for the purpose of disaster awareness and preparation. There are even Federal teams, and I must say it is a great relief to see so many various people getting involved and taking a personal responsibility in their survival and the survival of those around them. It makes me feel less isolated for being a survivalist, and will provide me with the perfect opportunity to get involved and help out those around me when the next disaster hits, rather than locking myself up and giving in to all my deeply rooted separatist ideals.

Thanks to my experiences growing up in the Colorado Rockies, as well as the years I've spent reading the wonderful articles posted to the Alpha Rubicon every month, I was ahead of the game for this class when it came to preparations. The primary goal of the class was for everyone who took it to walk away able to provide for themselves and their own for 3 days. Well since I try to keep a month's worth of frozen, and non-perishable foods handy, as well as water, I had that base already covered.

But on top of all of that, I learned far more than I ever thought I would in five classes. Looking back now, I can see just how much knowledge and experience these trainers put into the class.

Our training came from the city Fire Department. They are a team of 12, with no volunteer firefighting force. They have been conducting this class for several years now, and have a force of over 600 CERT volunteers for minor emergencies and major disasters. Our class was the largest one they've had so far, with some 59 people attending.

Over the next few months, I hope to write several articles breaking down the information given to me in each class. I'll send them in as soon as possible, for Warlord to put up at his own leisure.

To kick it off, I think I can cover at least the first two classes in this article, so let's roll.

Class 1 - Disaster Preparedness
"According to the 1990 U.S. Geological Survey, there is a 67% chance of a major earthquake occuring in the Bay Area within the next 30 years." - CERT Student Manual, Page I-3

While the above quote is local to me, disaster can strike anywhere at any time. Is your house prepared for this? Will the supplies you've spent time and money investing in go up in smoke from a fire, or scatter and break from a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake? If your house is still standing, can you provide for those living under your roof for the time it may take for your community to return to normal, or for relief aid to come? Do you know how to turn off your gas, electricity, and water? How close does your neighbor live? Can you turn off his as well? If your house is unusable, do you have supplies elsewhere? Can you take your family somewhere else and provide for them there, so that you don't have to rely upon emergency shelters?

For those who've posted articles here, and many readers like myself, these questions are nothing new. I found it highly encouraging for my local fire department to be asking these very questions, and making everyone around me consider them carefully. These men and women know that each person will be on their own for at least three days if not longer when the next major disaster in our area strikes.

Here's another quote from the manual:
"Will family members at work go home, or, will you meet some other place? Who will pick up the children at school? What if a family member is out of the area when the quake hits? What if the home is structurally damaged and uninhabitable? Your plan should answer all your questions."

Having a good disaster plan is essential to survival. For each person in your home that travels any distance on a regular basis, your plan becomes that much more complex. Sit down and talk it out with your family. Do this as often as you would discuss fire escape routes, and daily or weekly chores. Make it a part of life, until the plan is well learned and every possible kink has been worked out of it.

Here are a few things to do:
- Make a list of all necessary telephone contacts and make sure every family member has a copy.

- Make sure you have 72 hour supplies.

- Put on your "earthquake eyes" and survey your home. What will break? What will fall? How can it be prevented?

- Choose a reunification site

- Establish a telephone contact out of the area

- Have your go-kit or bug out gear available

- practice, practice, practice

When it happens, this will all help you in remaining calm. If you don't remain calm, there's going to be more trouble than is necessary.

The rest of this first class covered the specifics of Command and Control in my community. Find out who'll be in charge when disaster hits your family. Find out where you might be able to help, or at least identify who should and who should not be knocking on your door asking if everything is okay.

Class 2 - Utility Control, Firefighting Equipment & Techniques, HAZMAT

Walk your neighborhood and try to identify how best to turn off the gas, electricity, and water to the houses around you. Even if you're not working with a volunteer group, you'll want to know this in case you smell gas in your neighborhood.

On a gas meter, the appropriate knob to turn, should be turned perpendicular to the pipe.

On your electric panel, throw the Main switch to the Off or Down position.

Please investigate your own homes to get the picture of what I mean, and contact your utility providers for more information. I'm sorry I don't have the slides and photos we had in class, which really help in explaining these tasks.

A good idea to try in preparation for an emergency is to turn everything on. Make sure your water heater is running. If you have a gas dryer or stove, put them to work too. Then head on out to your meter and see what's going on. What kind of load is your meter under? How fast are those dials spinning? In an emergency, it's a safe bet that if they are spinning any faster than that, you probably have a leak.

Fire Fighting Equipment and Techniques

An oxidizing agent (air), a combustible material, and an ignition source are essential for combustion.

Once this happens you have to remove the heat, or smother the flames, and deprive the fire of air or material to consume.

To extinguish a fire you can:
- Lower air concentration by smothering or covering the fire
- Remove heat by cooling with water
- Chemically inhibit the fire with an extinguisher

Before you consider fighting a fire here are some things to do:
- Call the Fire Department
- Make sure everyone has left the building or is leaving
- Always work in two's with two extinguishers; Don't fight it alone
- Never fight a fire spreading beyond the immediate area where it started; if it is already a large fire which will most likely cut off your escape route; if you doubt the operation of the extinguisher or don't know if it is the correct type.

Here are some Fire Classifications:

Class A - Ordinary Combustibles (cloth, wood, paper, etc)

Class B - Flammable Liquids (gasoline, oils, paints)

Class C - Energized Electrical (wiring, electrical boxes, charged equipment)

Class D - Combustible Metals (magnesium, sodium, titanium, zinc, potassium, powdered aluminum)

Fire Extinguishers are classified according to their intended use.

Use the P.A.S.S system to use your fire extinguisher
Pull the pin
Aim low
Sweep from
Side to side

The first chance you get, I recommend you start a safe, controlled fire and put it out with an extinguisher. Remember to do it with a team of two. The second person should be immediately ready to step in and take over if the first backs out. For the purpose of learning how, make sure you have a third person nearby with an absolute guaranteed way of putting out the fire. In my case, it was an instructor in all his gear and a big huge water hose. For you it may be Uncle Jim Bob with a tractor load of dirt.

and now one of my favorite subjects:

Hazardous Materials or HAZMAT
When preparing your house for disaster, make sure your chemicals are separated. When your house shakes from a storm or a quake, is that bottle of ammonia going to break and mix with that bottle of bleach? Think about these things as you look your house and workplace over.

On a roadway all vehicles transporting quantities of hazardous materials must have DOT placards identifying the contents. These can be referenced in the DOT "Emergency Response Guide Book".

Here are a few legends for reading these signs:

Color Codings
Orange - Explosive
Yellow - Oxidizer
Red - Flammable Gas & Liquid
Green - Nonflammable Gas
White - Poison
Yellow/White - Radioactive
Black/White - Corrosive

Hazardous Materials by Class Numbers
Class 1 - Explosive
Class 2 - Gasses (Compressed, liquified, or dissolved under pressure)
Class 3 - Flammable Liquids
Class 4 - Flammable Solids or Substances
Class 5 - Oxidizers
Class 6 - Poisonous/Infectious Substances
Class 7 - Radioactive Substances
Class 8 - Corrosives
Class 9 - Misc. Dangerous Substances

Many of you may have seen the four-colored diamond located at Industrial and Commercial Fixed sites. This is the Diamond split into four areas, Red on top, Blue on left, Yellow on right, and White on bottom.

Being able to read these can give you valuable information in an urgent situation. Within these colored areas there will be a number, and here is the key to go by:
Red - Fire Hazard
4 - materials that burn readily
3 - materials that can ignite at room temperature
2 - materials that ignite if moderately heated
1 - materials that ignite after considerable preheating
0 - will not burn

Yellow - Reactivity
4 - may detonate
3 - shock and heat may detonate
2 - violent chemical changes
1 - unstable if heated
0 - stable

Blue - Health Information
4 - deadly
3 - extreme hazard
2 - hazardous
1 - slightly hazardous
0 - normal hazard

White - Special Information
W - water may cause reaction
COR - corrosive
OXY - oxidizer
ACID - acid

Be very aware of bubbling liquids and vapors. GET OUT IMMEDIATELY!

Get uphill and upwind.
Evacuate the area, but do not put yourself at risk.
Notify the proper authorities.

Well that's it for the first two classes. Here is what I will cover in future articles:

Disaster Medicine
- Patient Assessment
- Triage
- Most Common Types of Injuries
Light Search & Rescue
- Special Hazards
- Forcible Entry
- Search Procedures
Disaster Psychology
Emergency Supplies

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