People across south central are still processing the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that shook the region for several minutes last month. For folks who work in emergency management, it was yet another test of how well their local programs provide a response to such events.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management Director Dan Nelson says some training exercises they have coming up early next year can help the general public be as self-reliant as possible in those first minutes when even the pros are still assessing what’s happening.
“This is a real great time to talk about it for folks that went through the earthquake, and I’ve heard some people, new folks coming into our community and some of those folks did not come from earthquake country and this was traumatic. This is not something to minimize. It was a big deal.”
Those are the times when the borough’s Community Emergency Response Team training comes in.
“We try and teach skills to our residents. We're not going to teach you how to be a firefighter, we're not going to teach you to be an EMT, we're not going to put you into rescuing (someone) from a collapsed building. People go through this kind of basic training course, and it covers a lot of different things kind of on a high level.”
Things like fire suppression and utility control; knowing when to shut off the gas or the electricity and also some very basic disaster first aid. CERT training isn’t unique to the Kenai. Similar programs were put in place across the country after some particularly deadly earthquakes in California in the early 90’s. During those events, sometimes neighbors trying to help out created more problems because of a lack of basic training. Nelson says CERT members may be asked to help out at the borough in case of a large-scale emergency.
“Folks have been used to do things like evacuations, like closing roads and manning checkpoints and going door to door. They answer phones when people are calling in and trying to get information, they do watch social media for us. They become a volunteer response kind of cadre of people in each community and what we want to do is have that built up in each community, a good solid team.”
The next CERT training opportunity is February 4th. The 30 hour class will be conducted over the course of two weeks with a live drill at the end. In March, the course will be held in Kenai with another planned for Homer in April.