Two years ago before volunteering to develop a CERT program in Monroe County, Illinois I sat on my couch in the basement with my daughter one evening hoping all would be well when the tornado siren blared out the warning of an impending threat.
I found myself unprepared, in a basement with a ceiling loaded with pipes, a concrete room filled with Christmas decorations and an under house garage that sat at the southwest corner. My daughter and I sat in shorts, no shoes and waited out the siren that went in and out and in and out. Thankfully we were fine.
Then one day the need for a “volunteer” CERT coordinator came to my attention. A layoff from the airlines afforded me the time, as did my husband’s job. I took on the task and now two years later, balancing visits with six grown children and six grandchildren, I am still learning each day as I grow in the CERT management program. I have learned a better response to the siren calls and I am able to share this knowledge with others due to the training from CERT and from networking with my fellow emergency management volunteers.
Our initiative and team is small compared with other communities but, we are connected, we are making a difference and we do have a goal for Monroe County to be “Unified and Ready”. We started a challenge this month for every citizen and neighbor to take the pledge of preparedness so they will be able to say, “I Am Ready”, “I Have a Plan”.
Our CERTeams are still under construction, and neighboring counties have helped with training and growth. Each amount of volunteer time is valuable. This year the Monroe County Commissioners and the EMS chose the finalists and the winner of the “Unified and Ready Mascot Contest”. Safety Sam, a brown dog reminiscent of Huckleberry Hound, was our mascot winner. Safety Sam will be putting in quite a lot of volunteer hours taking the need to “Be Prepared” throughout the county and wherever he is called.
Team spirit in the CERT program is seen in our twenty-one member strong volunteer Citizen Corps Council that presides over the CERT program. Comprised of first responders, government officials, church, private sector, civic organizations and businesses, all volunteer their time to working together for a safer community. Many hours (too many to keep track of) each week are committed to the goal of making our county and it’s citizens able to “Assess, Think and Respond (ATR)” and say “I am Ready” and “I Have a Plan”.
Taking what I learned through volunteering with the CERT program, I saw knowledge and flexibility were very important but each disaster and circumstance did not fit into a definitive answer or response.
Use the knowledge and training you have and be flexible and choose the best response. There are a lot of measures and planning we can do ahead of time such as having a plan, making a survival kit, knowing the county emergency plan, coordinating with neighbors, sharing resources and skills and many other proactive “Ready” actions we can take. Now when the sirens blare, “I am Ready” as best as I can be. I also need protection and support, while I am asleep, so I keep a pair of “sturdy” shoes by my bed, a flashlight and a weather band radio.
Get great help with getting prepared at http://www.ready.gov/