It has become increasingly difficult to view the images coming in from many sources of the immensity of devastation and human misery caused by the two 7.6 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria this week. I have read that some 17,000 trained emergency responders from forty countries are there to lead the search and rescue activities. Unfortunately, the scope of the disaster dwarfs the largely organized response and thousands of “convergent volunteers,” family members of the missing, neighbors, and others who are moved to help, offer a chaotic scene.
And then I am reminded that the ground under my house is still awaiting the long-promised “big one” – the 7.6 earthquake likely to visit us as local underground faults rupture, shift, and move the Earth around them. I am also reminded that the city of West Hollywood once sponsored an active Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), but has since dropped its sponsorship. Our neighboring cities Beverly Hills, Culver City, and Los Angeles – where CERT was born – all have active CERT programs integrated with their fire departments.
West Hollywood suggests that those residents interested in CERT contact the LA County fire department for training, but then apparently does not understand how CERT functions. I believe it is the responsibility of the city to provide sponsorship of its own CERT program. Our city is an amalgamation of residents, a vital hospitality and retail commercial component, and a steady stream of visitors, all of which can double our stated population of about 34,000 individuals.
Imagine the chaos during a daytime 7.6 earthquake, and remember how thin the group of response professionals is. You will not receive personal help from them for as long as 36 hours, as they must first survey the situation and go to the area where they are most needed. Doesn’t it make sense to really know how to take care of yourself, your family, your friends, and neighbors?
CERT is recognized worldwide as the best way to prepare for individual and community survival. The Los Angeles City Fire Department devised the program over thirty years ago because it knew it would be unable to render widespread assistance during a major disaster. The federal government has brought it to its Ready.gov website, and FEMA recognizes it as basic disaster response training.
The training takes place over a six-week period with two-hour sections covering everything from disaster medical triage to light search and rescue. Before the city abandoned its sponsorship, WEHCERT had trained over 200 residents and conducted the necessary refresher courses and drills. We had a CERT desk in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at city hall responsible for dealing with convergent volunteers.
We need to renew the city’s commitment to its mandate to provide a safe environment for its citizens. If you agree, contact the Council and the city manager with your concerns.
PS: A side note, many years ago I was the safety officer for a USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) team for a brief three weeks, until it was noted that I was not in the fire service, but had spent the previous two years training firefighters in tactics and techniques gleaned from the field of industrial safety. My memento is a slightly banged-up special Bullard hard hat.