A number of cities and groups offer Community Emergency Response Team courses, where residents can volunteer to receive basic training on how to help with relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of an emergency or natural disaster.
But any skill tends to get rusty without regular practice, and emergencies by nature are unpredictable. That's why Lake Oswego's Fire Department teams up with several other fire districts throughout Clackamas County to host an annual CERT Summit, where CERT graduates from throughout the area can gather and practice their emergency response skills.
For three hours on Saturday, roughly 50 CERT participants at Clackamas Fire Station 14 in Boring divided into groups and rotated through five workshop stations to practice skills, including fire suppression, search and rescue, emergency supply delivery and more. The smoky conditions at the site, although fitting, were not intentional, but rather a byproduct of the Eagle Creek wildfire in the Columbia River Gorge.
"It's really a refresher, and we try to add a practical component," said Lake Oswego Fire Marshal Gert Zoutendijk, who led one of the stations. "People get hands-on experience, and that's what people remember."
Zoutendijk's station focused on fire suppression and fire extinguisher use. Participants were first given a refresher on the three types of fires that an extinguisher can suppress — conventional, gas and electrical — as well as the best way to stop a fire. (The answer: Cut off the fuel supply).
Then Zoutendijk ignited the top of a cart filled with propane, giving the participants a chance to use fire extinguishers to put out the blaze. The group worked in pairs, with one person wielding the extinguisher and the other watching their surroundings. In a real disaster, Zoutendijk explained, the person with the extinguisher is going to be focused entirely on the fire.
At another station, participants practiced operating an impromptu Commodity Point-Of-Distribution (CPOD), which would be used to hand out supplies to community members following a disaster.
"We (the county's emergency services) don't have enough employed folks to ever be able to pull this off without your help," said Administrative Services Manager Sarah Eckman, who led the workstation.
It's also unlikely that government and relief agencies will have the time or clear road access to be able to reach individual citizens after a disaster, Eckman said, so supplies will likely be delivered in bulk to distribution centers either by truck or, in extreme cases, by air drop.
Those sites then need to be configured to allow recipients to quickly walk or drive onto the site, collect their supplies and then exit through a different access point, she said.
A third station used the fire department's on-site training tower to simulate a search-and-rescue and triage operation inside a building following a disaster, and additional presentations focused on terrorism and disaster sanitation. A presentation during the lunch break also covered sandbag preparation.
According to County Disaster Management employee Jaime Hayes, Saturday's Summit was the third time the county has coordinated the event, which was funded by the Molalla, Canby, Estacada and Hoodland fire districts, the Lake Oswego Fire Department and Clackamas Fire District 1. CERT team members from each district participated, along with a handful from other areas.
"The county doesn't sponsor any CERT teams, but we're helping to pull this all together," Hayes said.
Fifteen of the participants were from Lake Oswego, and Hayes said their participation was important. Lake Oswego doesn't currently offer any refresher courses, so the annual summit is the best opportunity for local CERT graduates to practice what they've learned.
Zoutendijk said the LOFD has offered its own refresher courses in the past and is planning to restart the local option in the future. But for the moment, he said, the regional summit is the best opportunity for Lake Oswego CERT graduates to practice for disasters.
Source : http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/48-news/372910-256878-cert-graduates-practice-for-disaster