One of my main objectives in starting this blog was to encourage and help other citizens to get more involved in emergency preparedness by describing my own experiences. So, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to receive an email last week from a reader named Valerie Berg in Boulder, Colorado.
Valerie wrote that she had wanted to get involved in emergency preparedness in her community, but there was no Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) there. Then, she found this blog on the web which showed her “a real person doing real things” and “presented the Red Cross in such a way that piqued my interest. I decided to sign up for a class and was drawn into a new world.” As Valerie was also one of the winners of the blog’s “Preparedness Tips” contest (and therefore will be receiving an audio book prize from me), her comments may be a little biased. However, I will take them nonetheless! Below is the full email:
“I’m one of those people whose sees a disaster on TV and gets the adrenaline surge that says, ‘You should go and help out!’. I was actually moved up off the couch and out the house to drive down and help my church group after Katrina. It was one of the most impressive experiences of my life for many reasons, but I came away realizing how unprepared I was to be truly helpful.
I heard about CERT training in other states and when I read about a local class, I signed up. It was a great experience, lots of fun and toward the end of it, I started asking about where do we go from here? How will we be called up? What help can we actually offer? I found out that there was no real CERT program in place since the local agencies are worried about liability issues. At our final exercise, the fire department representative was from another county – no locals showed up.
Undeterred, I started searching the web and found an article about the “In Case of Emergency” blog – a real person doing real things as a CERT member in his community. John presented the Red Cross in such a way that piqued my interest. I decided to sign up for a class and was drawn into a new world.
I won’t be going out for national disasters since I don’t like to fly but I’ve found that there is plenty to do otherwise:
-I’ve been helping at the Mile High Chapter headquarters in the staffing area and got to follow some mentors around during the recent DNC alert.
-Toward the end of that week, Gustav deployment started. I was able to help process loads of volunteers going out to help – amazing people who are going to live for 3 weeks in staff shelters in hot, humid weather for the sake of helping other people.
-This week, I finally got to go on my first Disaster Action Team (DAT) call, a house fire. (It’s funny to be in a position of really wanting to get experience on a call but not to wish misfortune on others…) Fortunately, there were just a few minor injuries, and we were mainly needed to feed the responders some snacks. But it was still an amazing experience to pull up to a pre-dawn scene of 10-15 vehicles with flashing lights, people toting heavy equipment and the smell of the smoldering fire. Joan, my DAT captain has my uptmost respect – she’s been doing this for 5 years – getting up in the middle of the night or otherwise rearranging her life to make sure people in need get some help.
So here I am, still very much a Red Cross newbie, but I’ve come to understand more about that big adrenaline-rush aspect to disasters. I’ve realized that one way to really help is to maintain that level of interest and willingness to join in and help out. If someone is interested in helping their local community or the community of the human race, the Red Cross is a great vehicle for that.”
Thank you, Valerie, for your very kind words and for your service in your community. I hope others are inspired to follow her example of getting more involved.