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COLUMN: How you can get involved in emergency preparedness in Salem
COLUMN: How you can get involved in emergency preparedness in Salem

Editor’s Note: The Salem Reporter is publishing a new regular column by Mark Wardell, West Salem team leader for Salem’s Community Emergency Response Team, focusing on emergency preparedness and planning.

What is CERT?

CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. It is a free program that educates volunteers about disaster preparedness and teaches them basic disaster response skills such as emergency preparedness, fire prevention, basic search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical response.

It was developed in 1985 by the Los Angeles Fire Department to help communities prepare for and respond to disasters. The program is now sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and offered in communities across the United States. Salem CERT is sponsored by the City of Salem Fire Department and is under the direction of the city’s emergency management director. And on a more local level, Mark Wardell (that’s me) has taken over as team leader for West Salem CERT, while Will Conley and Sophie Sparling have accepted the role of assistant team leaders to serve alongside me.

Volunteers are trained to help others in their neighborhood or workplace after a disaster when professional helpers cannot come to help immediately. They can also help with disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.

There are many reasons why someone might want to join CERT. Here are some:

  • To help their community. CERT volunteers play an important role in helping their communities prepare for and respond to disasters. They can help with evacuations, search and rescue, and medical assistance. They can also help with disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.
  • To learn valuable skills. CERT training teaches volunteers a range of skills that can be useful in an emergency, such as fire safety, first aid and basic search and rescue. These skills can also be useful in everyday life.
  • Meet new people and make a difference. CERT is a great way to meet new people and get involved in your community. CERT volunteers are a dedicated group of individuals who are committed to helping others.

Here are some concrete examples of how CERT volunteers have helped their communities:

  • After Hurricane Katrina, CERT volunteers assisted in search and rescue efforts and provided medical assistance to victims.
  • During the 2010 California wildfires, CERT volunteers helped evacuate residents and protect homes from the flames.
  • After the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, CERT volunteers helped with cleanup and recovery efforts.

CERT is a valuable program that can help communities become more resilient to disasters and make a real difference in the lives of people affected by disasters. It’s a great way for volunteers to learn valuable skills that they can use to help themselves and their neighbors, meet new people, and make a difference in their community.

Be ready in 2 weeks

Those who live in Salem enjoy a beautiful state, but we also need to be aware of potential emergencies. Here’s a rundown of some common hazards you should be aware of:

  • Earthquake: Oregon is located near a major fault line, so earthquakes are a problem. A large quake could disrupt utilities, damage buildings, and trigger landslides.
  • Flooding: Rivers in the Willamette Valley can rise quickly, causing flooding that isolates residential areas from the outside world and leads to power outages.
  • Forest fires: Dry summers and strong winds increase the risk of forest fires. Smoke inhalation and property damage are the greatest dangers.
  • Ice storms: Winter storms can cover trees with ice, causing power outages and downed power lines.
  • Other disturbances: Power outages for various reasons, volcanic ash fall (less common but possible) and the release of hazardous substances are other potential hazards.

Be 2 weeks finished means having the necessary supplies on hand to sustain yourself and your family for an extended period of time without outside help. This includes a two-week supply of non-perishable food and bottled water for everyone in your household. Don’t forget to consider dietary restrictions and pet needs when putting together your food supply.

A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for treating minor injuries and illnesses that may arise in an emergency. Take bandages, painkillers, antiseptics and any medications you or your family regularly take.

Even in emergencies, it is important to maintain hygiene and sanitation. Stock up on essentials like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and personal care products to ensure your well-being.

Power outages are a common consequence of many emergencies. Having flashlights and spare batteries on hand can help you find your way safely in the dark.

In emergencies, it’s important to stay informed. Using a battery-powered radio or portable phone charger will allow you to receive updates and instructions from local authorities.

You never know when the day before will be the day before. Prepare for the next day. A little preparation goes a long way. By 2 weeks finishedyou can face these emergencies with more confidence and protect yourself and your loved ones. In the coming months, I will use this monthly article to discuss the steps to 2 weeks finished. If you would like to read on, you can find all the information from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management on the official “2 Weeks Ready” website.

We bring CERT to you

One of CERT’s missions is to help our community be better prepared for potential emergencies. This could include something as simple as a prolonged power outage, snow/ice storms, or the worst-case scenario, the predicted earthquake that we all hope never happens.

If you know a group of people, such as church and civic groups, HOAs, senior residences, who would like to learn more about better preparedness, we would love to come and give a presentation to your group. Our presentation would range from the basics to more advanced topics. Each presentation could be tailored, at least in part, to your specific group.

If you would like to discuss a presentation for your group, please contact me at (email protected).

We need them

If CERT sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, joining is easy. There is some training required, but let’s get to know each other. If you’d like to find out more or connect with CERT members in your area, please reach out and let me know. I can be reached at (email protected)and I will put you in touch with the CERT team in your area.

STORY TIP OR IDEA? Email the Salem Reporter news team: (email protected).

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Mark Wardell – Special to Salem Reporter

Mark was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and lived there most of his life before moving to West Salem in 2018. After moving to West Salem, he joined the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a FEMA program sponsored locally by the Salem Fire Department. Initially, he focused on amateur radio communications, but was recently promoted to team leader in West Salem. Mark writes about emergency preparedness for the Salem Reporter.