On Saturday I finished my CERT training – and immediately had an opportunity to get deployed as Hurricane Sandy rolled into town.
During the eight or so weeks of CERT training, two classes of about a dozen each learned emergency medical operations (triage, basic mass casualty stuff), search and rescue, fire suppression, disaster psychology, and terrorism/active shooter. The med ops stuff was the most stressful part, especially when we had our exercises with other CERT members/actors as “victims.” They did a good job of stressing us out! Our final exercise included a “downed wire” and mock grill explosion. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was the Incident Commander whose team killed more “victims” than we helped… Thank goodness it was just an exercise. The EMTs, fire chiefs, and police who were there teaching us were all great, and fully supportive of the all-volunteer Community Emergency Response Teams in Arlington County. Having heard their stories first hand gives me even more respect for what they do on a day-to-day basis.
I was a bit worried, though, because I hadn’t received my emailed certificate from one of the two online FEMA courses we were required to take if we wanted to become deployable. I was afraid that if it didn’t arrive before Hurricane Sandy did, I would lose out on a great chance to participate. Then, yesterday morning, the certificate arrived, and I was able to collect some loaner gear.
The Mechanic walked with me, during the hurricane, to the team leaders’ house, where I picked up my loaner CERT reflective vest (woo hoo, more reflective stuff!) and CERT backpack, and went over the rest of my gear with those who were more experienced. It wasn’t raining that bad yet, nor was it that windy, but we wore rain gear anyway.
On the way back, we decided to stop into Westover Village and see if the stores were open, because we didn’t already have enough ice cream and alcohol. Hey, comfort food is hurricane survival gear, right?!
Okay, this is a case of do what I say, not what I do – never go out during a hurricane! Like I did. As someone who knows better. Even in a bright blue rain suit. We were pretty soaked by the time we got back. Thank goodness for wine and ice cream!
We survived the storm just fine. The Mechanic was a bit disappointed that once again, his guest blog post was pre-empted by a natural disaster; his first guest post was published minutes before the derecho knocked out our power. This time, the power flickered a few times but never was out for long, and we were able to follow developments until far later into the night than we should have. We were very lucky; friends in New York are still without power. No one suffered any damage or injuries, and for that I am grateful.
But I got to deploy, and for that I am excited! I didn’t expect us to be sent out so early in the morning, but we, the active Arlington County CERT members, were asked to do damage assessment. Basically this meant to walk around the pre-assigned part of my neighborhood and make note of any serious damage, including downed power lines, trees in the middle of streets, and so on. Our reports went back to county first responders, sometimes informing them of dangers they hadn’t yet heard about.
We saw some major damage:
Someone had gotten to these trees before me so I didn’t need to use the caution tape, but I did warn some people from getting to close to the downed lines. I did answer questions about who I was and what CERT is.
My original plan for being a CERT member was to create a bike brigade for emergency response, but I have to say, after having been out today, that might not be the best idea. Even walking was tricky, with the huge amount of wet leaves and broken branches littering the streets and sidewalks. On the other hand, I’ll need (okay want) a cargo bike eventually. Without a car, I’m not sure how easy it will be to evacuate, if necessary, by bike. I’ll need more storage space! Or a trailer. So hopefully things will be calmer, weather-wise, for a while and I’ll be able to evaluate my needs and come up with an appropriate bike plan. I also encourage everyone to think about being prepared to shelter in place, survive potential winter weather disasters, and what you will do if you need to evacuate. It’s not sexy but it’s important.