In one of the smallest buildings at Alameda Point I learned some big lessons.
On five evenings and one Saturday in April, I signed in at the Fire Department Training Facility at 431 Stardust Place for my Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. CERT’s a program run by our fire department to train residents in everything from household safety to assisting emergency personnel in the event of a major disaster. The goal of CERT is to know how to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. We learned the basics of how to do the most good for the most people in an emergency.
During one class, I watched in awe as Fire Captain Bob Buell, my favorite instructor, took control of a crowd within seconds of a mock disaster. He showed the importance of initially assessing a situation for danger, while keeping yourself safe so you can then help others. Marveling at his broad knowledge of fire theory, hazardous materials and trauma care, I thought if I could grasp only a fraction of what he knows, I might one day be able to save a life or a structure—even my own!
There’s an old saying that “having no plan is a plan to fail.” The CERT course showed me that having a plan without practicing it is equally doomed to failure.
We used fire hoses, fire extinguishers, bandages, and gas meters. We carried an injured person, learned how to use levers and wedges to lift a 400-pound “wall” that had fallen on someone, and performed basic medical assistance. We learned how to triage the injured—to make quick decisions about who gets prioritized for treatment. We learned the appropriate questions to ask and how to check for injuries before moving someone.
During one outdoor exercise, led by Captain Buell, that simulated an explosion within a building, we learned the importance of giving firm and authoritative instructions to the “dazed victims” straggling out, while also asking them the right questions so we could inform the emergency personnel who would soon be arriving.
CERT graduates are welcome to either join or form a neighborhood/fire district team that will work together if the need arises. Fire Station #4 at Harbor Bay has two fully outfitted CERT trailers for CERT members to use in the event of a disaster. The business park and community associations donated the trailers.
The next CERT courses are scheduled for August and October/November. You can enroll in these free classes through our fire department. I know for CERT’n it’ll be worth your while.
Originally published in the Alameda Sun. See slide show below.