Disaster preparedness and response training to be offered next month

Virginia Graziani

Redwood Times

Whitethorn and Shelter Cove residents will have an opportunity to take free emergency preparedness and response training next month, thanks to the efforts of Kent Griggsmiller, chief of the Whitethorn Fire Protection District and Susie Fox of the Shelter Cove Community Emergency Response Team.

The Humboldt State University Regional Training Institute will offer a two-and-a-half day Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) course in the community room at Whitethorn Construction during the weekend of March 8-10.

Griggsmiller and Fox were able to secure funding so that the 23-hour course, which normally costs $150 per person, can be offered free to 12 residents of the Whitethorn FPD and 10 residents of Shelter Cove.

The training, which begins at noon on Friday, Mar. 8, includes modules on fire suppression, medical operations, light search and rescue, CERT organization, disaster psychology, and terrorism.

Topics covered in detail include personal and family preparedness, preparation for a variety of disasters including wildfire, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis, medical triage, damage assessment, fire suppression, hazardous material handling, and more.

The course culminates in a simulated disaster drill. Students will need to find and treat mannequins representing victims trapped under earthquake debris, as well as suppressing and treating "victims" of fires, and demonstrate other aspects of their training in a timed exercise.

"CERT trained individuals in California have a long history of stepping forward to help themselves, their families, and their communities in times of disaster when first responders are overwhelmed," said Judy Warren, regional coordinator of HSU's Regional Training Institute - Community Disaster Preparedness, which is providing the training.

Because of its unique geology, Northern California is particularly vulnerable to disasters. The Cascadia Subduction Zone, an area between northern Vancouver Island in Canada to Cape Mendocino off the Humboldt County coast where three major plates of the earth's crust meet, generated an earthquake of greater than magnitude 9 on the Richter scale in 1700. The earth shook for approximately five minutes.

Studies indicate a high likelihood that a similar disaster could occur soon. While the Cascadia Subduction Zone does not go under Shelter Cove, the effect of a magnitude 9 earthquake would be catastrophic. Coastal areas will also be strongly affected by a large earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, which extends from Southern California to just south of Cape Mendocino.

An earthquake of that magnitude will be followed within a few minutes by a tsunami that will inundate Shelter Cove as high as Upper Pacific Avenue.

As Warren summed it up: "After the ground stops shaking, when people pick themselves up, the world will be different." Infrastructure and services that people take for granted in their daily life will be gone. Communities, especially remote communities, will need to be as self-sufficient as possible.

"If the whole fault unzips the way it did January 26, 1700, the damage zone will extend east into Nevada, and from the San Francisco Bay Area to British Columbia," said Warren in an email to the Redwood Times.

"With so many large population areas being affected with a sudden disaster, we in Humboldt County well may not anticipate outside help arriving for a week and a half to two weeks....

"A well trained citizenry consisting of folks who have received CERT training will do much to alleviate the response needs in their community."

CERT-trained people will also be ready to help in other emergencies like wildfires and floods, either as individuals or as part of a team.

"If we prepare for the worst case scenario, we will be prepared for most anything," Warren said.

Classes run from noon to 7:30 p.m. on March 8; from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 9; and from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 10.

Participants will need to provide their own lunches.

Everyone who completes the course will receive a backpack containing basic safety equipment: a hard hat, goggles, gloves, dust mask, and flashlight. The equipment is provided by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Service.

CERT training is available to other SoHum communities as well. An established organization such as a volunteer fire department or fire protection district, community services district or other public agency, or a non-profit organization would be needed to sponsor the training.

The cost of the training, minus the cost of the backpacks donated by the governor's office, is $110 per person, and the minimum number of persons is 25, so the sponsor will need to provide $2,750 to cover the costs.

To sign up for the CERT training in Whitethorn in March, call Susie Fox at 986-7314. The first 12 people living within the Whitethorn FPD and the first 10 residents of Shelter Cove to sign up will be admitted to the course.

For more information about CERT and the Regional Training Institute Community Disaster Preparedness, call Judy Warren at 499-0754.

photo caption:


Shelter Cove residents practice firefighting skills at Community Emergency Response Team training in November, 2011. CERT training will be offered to Whitethorn and Shelter Cove residents on the weekend of March 8-10 in Whitethorn.