It is an attitude as American as mom's apple pie or a Brave's baseball game, so much a part of our country's history and character that most of us have accepted it from birth without question. The attitude was attested by such events as the Boston Tea Party, the Alamo and Tripoli. It manifests itself in our speech with such common phrases as "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Americans do not wait for help from others, but are self-preserving and take care of themselves in time of emergency. As in a western movie, we circle the wagons when our neighbors are in danger.
With the charging winds of Hurricanes Charley and Frances, the news media reported an outpouring of civic pride and the need to help in the days following those catastrophic events. It also came to light that, try as they might, emergency management staff, firefighters and other disaster relief workers cannot immediately reach every household when such an event takes place.
In fact, it was reported that in Punta Gorda, where Hurricane Charley came inland, there were entire neighborhoods where help could not reach citizens due to the condition of the roadways. Communities should begin to see, with this news coverage, that the existing network of emergency personnel and organizations can easily become overtaxed and overburdened when disaster hits.
When the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, EMA workers learned that an untrained volunteer, although intending to assist, can actually become a burden. Rescue workers, police and firefighters cannot trust that those wishing to sincerely help have the credentials to fill the roles they volunteer for.
Equally important, those trained to fill the role find themselves spending valuable time and energy instructing those who want to help, but who do not quite know how to do that. A solution was needed which would make truly effective use of those conscientious citizens with a "When the tough get going..." attitude.
That solution was actually found, long before 9-11, and quickly inaugurated by our Columbia County Emergency Management Agency. Instituting a program entitled Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Pam Tucker and other emergency managers are assuring that not only are volunteers encouraged, but that they are trained, credentialed and ready to respond before disaster strikes.
The idea is simple: each neighborhood will have a team of individuals who are trained to assess damage, mitigate further damage, find and rescue victims, evaluate the assistance each victim needs and then supply basic medical help. Should roadways be impassable, or the disaster cause a treacherous surge on local emergency systems, the CERT teams will be ready to spring into action; they are self-initiating, credentialed beforehand and readily available.
Thus far, Columbia County has 76 individuals ready to respond should a catastrophic event materialize, offering their lifetime experiences and training to create order out of chaos.
Jim Williamson, a military retiree, feels that his military experience gives him an edge with this effort. Williamson served in the military from 1950-78, and had "one of the most-rounded careers" of any military service, including two tours of duty in Vietnam.
The total effect of such a lifestyle gives this veteran an organized and effective mode of thinking which, he feels, will add to the CERT effort. The specific training he received as a CERT graduate will focus these past experiences and knowledge on the tasks demanded by an emergency situation.
This blending of past experience and current CERT training makes this program so unique and effective, and the CERT member's dedication so astounding. Jeremy Wallen of the Martinez Fire Department summarized this dedication following the final exercise of CERT training on Aug. 14. In his closing remarks, Wallen said "It is amazing that you all come here every Tuesday night, after working your jobs, in order to take part and contribute something back to your community."
Therefore, I would like to issue a challenge. Do it for your families, do it for your neighborhood, do it because you are an American -- just do it. "Circle the wagons" and make your neighborhood safe against the next attack by Mother Nature or a terrorist. Become a member of the local CERT teams.
As another member of the Martinez Fire Department said while witnessing a disaster simulation by CERT Group No. 3, "Now that I have seen you in action, believe me, I will definitely use you."
Enough said, folks; now it is time for the tough to get going -- join CERT.
(Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident and recent graduate of CERT training.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.