Community Matters: Join Your Local CERT Team!

You are Not Alone

Whatever type of disaster you are prepping for, one thing is certain:  you are not alone.  Even if you live in a rural area, you are part of a community.  On the show “Doomsday Preppers”, some prepped for total collapse situations (which they refer to as TEOTWAWKI-The End Of The World As We Know It) where they felt that they would have to hide in their bunkers with 50 years of stockpiled food, and fight off the desperate souls who were coming for their preps.  What kind of life is that?  It makes for good tv, but that is a very unlikely situation.  We are much more likely to encounter a million other disaster situations before we encounter one such as that.

Strength in Numbers

Personally, I would rather be a friend to my neighbors.  I prefer to be surrounded by people I know I can depend on, and who know they can depend on me.  Wouldn’t it be easier to sleep at night knowing that your neighbors have your back?  Yes, I prep to take care of my family first, but I am also thinking of my extended family, my neighbors, friends, and my community.  It can feel overwhelming at times, but the key is, when we are all prepared, we can rely on each other in an emergency.  There is strength in numbers.

It is a scary thought to think that in an emergency, YOU may be the help that someone is looking for.  Many disasters cause roads to be blocked by debris, or flooded, so that emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances cannot reach your neighborhood.

CERT volunteers
Neighbors helping neighbors

Support for Our First Responders

Most cities have only enough EMTs and emergency vehicles (firetrucks, ambulance) to handle day to day emergencies.  If a disaster strikes, they usually have to recruit vehicles and personnel from nearby cities.  But what if they can’t get into your neighborhood?

Remember Hurricane Katrina?  It didn’t matter how many ambulances they had, the city was flooded, and people were sitting on the rooftops of their homes!  We were all totally unprepared for that type of disaster, so it took time to get boats and helicopters to deploy for rescue.

For reasons like these, I believe that we have a personal responsibility to be prepared to take care of ourselves as best we can.  We cannot afford to rely on the professionals, or the government to save us.  The good news is, the government has set aside funding to provide training programs for us!  It is called the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).  CERT is a federally funded training program designed to teach civilians how to respond in a local emergency.

I am going through the training myself.  My favorite thing about CERT (besides the fact that it’s free!), is that their primary goal is to teach us how to take care of ourselves, and our families FIRST.  They would love if everyone could become a volunteer who can respond during a disaster.  However, if they teach even just one more person how to be more self reliant during an emergency, then that is one less person they have to worry about during a crisis.

CERT fire
CERT fire training

 

Preparing as a Community Matters

As a single mother of two, my kids are dependent on me to take care of them.  If something were to happen to me, I want the peace of mind that they will know what to do in an emergency.  Who knows, we may just save a life one day.  This type of training is critical for our safety and well being…even if we never have to use it.

My second favorite thing about CERT is that it teaches us how to respond in an organized way. During the 9/11 disaster, hundreds of well meaning volunteers showed up to help. Although their intentions were good, they caused delays for professional emergency responders by getting in the way.  The lack of organization caused even more chaos, and many people died before they could be helped.

Remember, if you aren’t able to become an active volunteer, you may just find yourself in a situation where someone (your family, your neighbor, or complete stranger) is relying on you for help.  If you are in a situation where help is unlikely to arrive, wouldn’t you rather be prepared, and confident in your abilities to handle such a situation?  The next time you are travelling on a long road, miles from the nearest town, and come upon a car accident:  there is no cell signal, no help will be arriving.  YOU are the help.  You are either prepared to deal with that, or not.  I would rather be prepared.

Is Your Community Prepared?

If you are lucky enough to live in a county that has a CERT team, I highly recommend you become a part of it.  The fact that you are even reading this means that you would be an excellent asset to your community.

To find out if your county runs a CERT program, click here.

If they don’t have one, tell them you want one.  This is part of being a good citizen.  I firmly believe that our greatest strength as a nation lies in our strong communities.  Communities are only strong when we get together and work as a team.  Taking care of ourselves and our families first is part of that.  When our family is strong, then our community is strong.  Let’s build stronger communities!

First Things First, First Aid Kit

Being a prepper doesn’t mean waiting for some “end of the world as we know it” catastrophic event. Being a prepper simply means being prepared for whatever life may throw at you. The more prepared you are, the better you are able to deal with emergency situations. Medical emergencies happen every day. Just ask an EMT.

Here are just a few examples of medical emergencies that I have encountered:

  • My sister was washing dishes when she dropped a thick drinking glass. The glass shattered, and because she was wearing shorts, a large shard bounced off the floor and took a 1 inch sized chunk off flesh off her leg. It took 30 minutes to stop the bleeding.
  • A friend of mine lost two of her fingers when her horse reared back, the rope twisted around her hand, and simply pinched off her pinky and ring fingers at the knuckle.
  • When I was a kid, I had a nasty bicycle accident and got road rash, including hundreds of little bits of gravel embedded in my legs and arms that had to be picked out with a needle, one…by…one.

All of these scenarios happened in different places. And all would have been helped by having a well stocked first aid kit nearby, and a person knowledgeable enough to know how to use it.

What Should go into a First Aid Kit?

A crucial part of being prepared is having a well stocked first aid kit. My current first aid kit is an embarrassment. I have a drawer with some over the counter medications, and a box of bandaids. Some of the medications have been expired for years! When I asked my kids if they knew where our first aid kit was. They both gave me blank stares, and my 17 year old asked “We have a first aid kit?”

Yikes!

As far as being prepared for emergencies goes, I am not even prepared for a papercut! Good luck to anyone who is looking for a bandaid in my house.

I needed to get more organized, so I checked out the American Red Cross for their first aid kit checklist:

2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
5 antiseptic wipe packets
2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
1 blanket (space blanket)
1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
1 instant cold compress
2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)
2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
Scissors
1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
2 triangular bandages
Tweezers
First aid instruction booklet [Available on the Red Cross Store]

This is just a basic first aid kit. There are many first aid checklists out there. Some are very basic and can fit into the glovebox of your car. Some are extensive and complex. It is up to each household to determine what type of kit suits their needs best. Some people like to assemble their own kits, and it is a good way to save money. Others find it more convenient to purchase ready made kits. Here is a good basic kit:

Small Travel First Aid Kit for the Car or Home in Soft Zipper Case (100 Pieces)

I like pre-made kits like this because if you are like me, and not a good organizer, then this makes your life simple. I bought one for my house, and one for my car since I travel a lot.

As life goes on, you will probably find that certain things get more use than others.  For example, I took out the compass and whistle and gave them to my kids for their camping packs.  I took the glow stick out of the house kit and added it to the car kit as a backup.

Because it is red with a cross on it, anyone who sees this will recognize it as a first aid kit.  I’m sure that eventually, I will be able to put together a more comprehensive kit, but for now, this is a good start.

Where to Keep It

Now that I had my first aid kit, the next step was to find a place to keep it in an obvious place. Since most accidents happen in the kitchen, I figured that would be a good place to keep it. In work environments, first aid kits are usually in a place where they can be seen, such as on a wall next to the door.

I want people to be able to find it quickly, so I decided the top of the refrigerator is as good a place as any. It’s not a complete eyesore, yet it is visible to anyone who comes to visit. Also, when it comes time to dust the top of the fridge, that is a good time to check my first aid kit for expired items, or items that need to be replaced.  This way, I ensure that my first aid kit is always well stocked and up to date.

My medicine cabinet is a different story, and that is a subject I will delve deeper into on another day. But for now, I feel good knowing that my household at least has a proper first aid kit, and everyone knows where to find it.

Know How to Use It

It doesn’t do any good to have a first aid kit, if you don’t know how to use it.
By having CPR/First Aid training, I can be prepared to handle medical emergencies until help arrives. So I went to the American Red Cross website and found CPR/First Aid classes in my area for about $100.  The class only takes one 8 hour day to complete.  So for a minimal investment of time and money, I gain more peace of mind.  

My next goal is to teach my kids about CPR/First Aid. What if something happens to me? It doesn’t do any good for me to be the one with all the knowledge if I am the one passed out on the floor!

Looks like I have more work to do.

Why am I doing this?

I believe prepping matters.  We all have a personal responsibility to look after ourselves, our family, and our community.  Prepping today comes with a negative stigma, and I want to change that notion.  Prepping is not being paranoid.  Prepping just makes good sense.  I believe prepping is something that every responsible citizen should do.

When I was a little girl, I loved to read books.  I particularly loved mysteries like Nancy Drew, and Choose-Your-Own-Adventures.  I remember reading classics like James and the Giant Peach, and Judy Blume.  But I didn’t take them seriously.  They were just fantasies, just stories.  They weren’t real.

One summer,  I read something outside of my normal taste.  I read a book about a teenage boy who was suddenly faced with a nuclear situation.  One minute, life was normal, the next minute, his whole world was in shambles.  Suddenly, there was disaster, and chaos.  There was no clean water. Looters were taking advantage, and he even found himself “stealing” though that’s not how he would have described it at the time.  He was just surviving.  There were injured and dead people everywhere.  Buildings were destroyed, and debris covered the streets, preventing emergency vehicles from getting help to people who desperately needed it.  He had to carry his own severely burned mother to the hospital on a wagon that he pulled himself. This book terrified me.

It scared me because at the age of 12, it had never occurred to me that my life would ever change.  I had not experienced death, or tragedy.  I had never been in a catastrophic situation or natural disaster.  I was suddenly aware of how tremendously unprepared my family was if something…anything…were to happen to us.

My First Taste of Disaster

Later that winter, we experienced the worst winter storm in 50 years.  Power was out for two weeks.  The streets were covered with black ice.  We couldn’t even get out of our neighborhood to go to the store, and even if we could, there was nothing on the shelves.  Thankfully, we still had running water, but it was ice cold.  We had to warm the water on a camping stove to bathe with, and we could only warm one gallon at a time.  There were seven people in our household.

When supplies ran low, my parents decided to risk the streets and try to drive five miles to the nearest store.  They didn’t make it.  The streets were covered with a one inch slab of ice.  Their car slid off the road and into a ditch.  They could not get it out, and there would be no help coming.  They left the car there, and walked back home, hoping that the ice would melt soon, otherwise, their family might starve.

Fortunately, before the situation became dire, the ice melted, and everything soon went back to normal.  What if it didn’t? What if we had two more weeks with no food? What if the pipes froze, and we didn’t have running water?  What if we didn’t have that camping stove to cook food?  The horrors of the book played out in my mind, and I was reminded with a real life example, of how unprepared we were for disasters.

The Danger in Comfort

Fast forward, and I am now 35 years old. I have kids of my own, and I have grown comfortable.  Comfort can be a very dangerous thing.  We become comfortable, then reliant on certain lifestyles, then dependent.  At this point, I am 100% dependent on being able to get food from a store each week.  I have no stockpiles.  I have no water stored up.  I have no idea what I would do if a disaster struck us.  

Last year, ebola hit close to home for us here in Texas, and I will not lie.  That was scary.  Like most others, on the surface, I was calm, and not worried about it, but my brain was running away with questions.  I’m not panicking, but what if others panic?  What if there’s a food run on the stores, and I am left with nothing to feed my kids?  What if work makes us take mandatory time off for safety?  I am living paycheck to paycheck.  I am 100% dependent on the salary from my job.  If I lose that, I am dead in the water.  They say they have things under control, but are they just saying that to mitigate panic?  What if it does get out of control?  How will I protect my family?

The reality is, disasters happen.  Sometimes they only affect a few, sometimes many.  It is our responsibility to do what we can to take care of ourselves and not wait for someone else to come to our rescue, because that may not happen.  Unfortunately, that was the case for many poor souls after Hurricane Katrina.

If disaster strikes, in whatever form, I want the peace of mind knowing that I have prepared my family to the best of my ability.  That’s what being a “prepper” is all about.  These days the word “prepper” has a negative connotation depending on who you talk to.  There are extremists, just like with anything else, but being prepared just makes sense.  Not being prepared, and relying on luck and the hope that nothing will happen doesn’t make sense.
So this is my way of holding myself accountable for being prepared, and not getting too comfortable and complacent.  My grandma used to say “It’s better to be safe, than sorry”.  That is my goal.  I want my family, and your family to be safe.