Juneau Amateur Radio Club, Inc.
Community Emergency Response Team
The events of September 11th 2001 have stirred many emotions and responses not only from citizens in the United States, but in many other countries. These have ranged from financial and blood donations, care packages and outpourings of support and sympathy. Emergency managers and responders have been evaluating their plans and preparations for dealing with a similar incident in their jurisdiction, but what about the average citizen. What is their role when a disaster strikes their community? Many citizens assume that their local emergency services will be there to help – but is that the case?
In a disaster the local emergency services receive hundreds of requests for assistance in the moments following the disaster. The shear volume of requests overwhelm the 911operators and, in turn, there are not enough police officers, fire fighters and medical personnel to respond to every request. If a city’s fire and medical personnel are largely volunteer, response can be further delayed as responders have trouble reaching their stations. In addition, as has been proven during numerous disasters, communications systems become overloaded and possibly fail, including telephone and cellular phones. The situation then becomes more confusing as a result of the failure of communications systems and is further compounded by the failure of power supplies.
When local resources are overwhelmed they rely on help from other, near-by communities that are not affected. However, in Alaska that help is a long time away, and in southeast Alaska it could take days. Federal response, usually in the form of Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces, is typically 36 hours away if you are “down south”. In Alaska this will be much longer.
But how do the local officials know what kind of help they need?
There is much more that individual citizens can do to help themselves until “outside”, or local, help arrives. Some basic skills in disaster preparedness can prevent some injuries and damage and prepare individuals to take care of themselves. Basic first aid will allow them to help family members and neighbors, they can also determine the urgency for the need of “professional” help. Basic skills in putting out small fires before they become big ones, determining if a building is safe to enter, how to searching a building and how to rescue people that are trapped can save lives. In the moments after a disaster people have a natural tendency to step in and help. Basic skills will help them prevent further injuries and from becoming another victim, not only at home but at work and in schools.
Taken a step further, individuals with these basic skills can be trained to work as a team in their neighborhood, helping each other. They can then communicate the needs in their area to the local officials, such as the number and severity of injuries, the amount of damage and need for emergency shelters and feeding facilities and roads that are blocked. This information can be passed by phone or by local amateur radio operators to the Emergency Operations Center, the heart of any city’s disaster response. In the absence of this information local officials have to wait until they have had the opportunity to receive reports from emergency responders. The extent of damage in a disaster is needed before local officials can request state resources, and state officials can declare a disaster and receive federal resources.
"But it can’t happen here!"...............................................
This statement has been heard time and time again as an excuse not to do any planning or preparation. Let us look at our community and assess our “risk”. Earthquake, tsunami, mud slide, avalanche and a severe winter storm are a few of the natural disasters that can effect us. In addition, a plane crash at the airport will isolate us from any outside help for a long time, and a situation on a cruise ship could displace thousands of passengers into our community, which will create some severe logistical problems. Any major disaster in Washington will also effect us. So,
"It’s not a case of “if” it happens, but “when”.
Juneau CERT Web Page here
Links for understanding what a CERT is: (Community Emergency Response Team)
This information was adapted from: “The Emergency Response Team Model: A Common Sense Approach!” by Frank Borden and Robert G Lee, published on the internet at www.disaster-resource.com
For years the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Red Cross and other disaster organizations have advocated that citizens and families have a “72 hour” emergency kit.
Winlink 2000 - (WL2K) is a worldwide system of volunteer resources supporting e-mail by radio.